Neural adaptations underlying cross-education after unilateral strength training

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 Dec;107(6):723-30. doi: 10.1007/s00421-009-1190-7. Epub 2009 Sep 16.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of 4-week (16 sessions) unilateral, maximal isometric strength training on contralateral neural adaptations. Subjects were randomised to a strength training group (TG, n = 15) or to a control group (CG, n = 11). Both legs of both groups were tested for plantar flexion maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs), surface electromyogram (EMG), H-reflexes and V-waves in the soleus (SOL) and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) superimposed during MVC and normalised by the M-wave (EMG/M(SUP), H(SUP)/M(SUP), V/M(SUP), respectively), before and after the training period. For the untrained leg, the TG increased compared to the CG for MVC torque (33%, P < 0.01), SOL EMG/M(SUP) (32%, P < 0.05) and SOL V/M(SUP) (24%, P < 0.05). For the trained leg, the TG increased compared to the CG for MVC torque (40%, P < 0.01), EMG/M(SUP) (SOL: 38%, P < 0.05; GM: 60%, P < 0.05) and SOL V/M(SUP) (72%, P < 0.01). H(SUP)/M(SUP) remained unchanged for both limbs. No changes occurred in the CG. These results reinforce the concept that enhanced neural drive to the contralateral agonist muscles contributes to cross-education of strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Resistance Training*
  • Young Adult