Reduction in corticospinal inhibition in the trained and untrained limb following unilateral leg strength training

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Aug;112(8):3097-107. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-2289-1. Epub 2011 Dec 27.


This study used transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure the corticospinal responses following 8 weeks of unilateral leg strength training. Eighteen healthy, non-strength trained participants (14 male, 4 female; 18-35 years of age) were matched for age, gender, and pre-training strength; and assigned to a training or control group. The trained group participated in unilateral horizontal leg press strength training, progressively overloaded and wave periodised, thrice per week for 8 weeks. Testing occurred prior to the intervention, at the end of 4 weeks and at the completion of training at 8 weeks. Participants were tested in both legs for one repetition maximum strength, muscle thickness, maximal electromyography (EMG) activity, and corticospinal excitability and inhibition. No changes were observed in muscle thickness in either leg. The trained leg showed an increase in strength of 21.2% (P = 0.001) and 29.0% (P = 0.007, compared to pre-testing) whilst the untrained contralateral leg showed 17.4% (P = 0.01) and 20.4% (P = 0.004, compared to pre-testing) increases in strength at 4 and 8 weeks, respectively. EMG and corticospinal excitability did not change; however, corticospinal inhibition was significantly reduced by 17.7 ms (P = 0.003) and 17.3 ms (P = 0.001) at 4 and 8 weeks, respectively, in the trained leg, and 25.1 ms (P = 0.001) and 20.8 ms (P = 0.001) at 4 and 8 weeks, respectively, in the contralateral untrained leg. This data support the theory of corticospinal adaptations underpinning cross-education gains in the lower limbs following unilateral strength training.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult