Maximal and explosive strength training elicit distinct neuromuscular adaptations, specific to the training stimulus

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014 Feb;114(2):365-74. doi: 10.1007/s00421-013-2781-x. Epub 2013 Dec 1.


Purpose: To compare the effects of short-term maximal (MST) vs. explosive (EST) strength training on maximal and explosive force production, and assess the neural adaptations underpinning any training-specific functional changes.

Methods: Male participants completed either MST (n = 9) or EST (n = 10) for 4 weeks. In training participants were instructed to: contract as fast and hard as possible for ~1 s (EST); or contract progressively up to 75% maximal voluntary force (MVF) and hold for 3 s (MST). Pre- and post-training measurements included recording MVF during maximal voluntary contractions and explosive force at 50-ms intervals from force onset during explosive contractions. Neuromuscular activation was assessed by recording EMG RMS amplitude, normalised to a maximal M-wave and averaged across the three superficial heads of the quadriceps, at MVF and between 0-50, 0-100 and 0-150 ms during the explosive contractions.

Results: Improvements in MVF were significantly greater (P < 0.001) following MST (+21 ± 12%) than EST (+11 ± 7%), which appeared due to a twofold greater increase in EMG at MVF following MST. In contrast, early phase explosive force (at 100 ms) increased following EST (+16 ± 14%), but not MST, resulting in a time × group interaction effect (P = 0.03), which appeared due to a greater increase in EMG during the early phase (first 50 ms) of explosive contractions following EST (P = 0.052).

Conclusions: These results provide evidence for distinct neuromuscular adaptations after MST vs. EST that are specific to the training stimulus, and demonstrate the independent adaptability of maximal and explosive strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Quadriceps Muscle / innervation
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Young Adult