Evidence of homologous and heterologous effects after unilateral leg training in youth

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018 Mar;43(3):282-291. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2017-0338. Epub 2017 Oct 25.


The positive effects of unilateral training on contralateral muscles (cross education) has been demonstrated with adults for over a century. There is limited evidence for cross education of heterologous muscles. Cross education has not been demonstrated with children. It was the objective of this study to investigate cross-education training in children examining ipsilateral and contralateral homologous and heterologous muscles. Forty-eight male children (aged 10-13 years) were assessed for unilateral, ipsilateral and contralateral lower limb strength, power and endurance (1-repetition maximum (RM) leg press, knee extensors (KE) and flexors (KF) maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC), countermovement jump, muscle endurance test (leg press repetitions with 60% 1RM)), and upper body unilateral MVIC elbow flexors (EF) and handgrip strength. An 8-week training program involved 2 unilateral leg press resistance-training groups (high load/low repetitions: 4-8 sets of 5RM, and low load/high repetitions: 1-2 sets of 20RM) and control (untrained) group. All muscles exhibited improvements of 6.1% to 89.1%. The trained limb exhibited greater adaptations than the untrained limb for leg press 1RM (40.3% vs. 25.2%; p = 0.005), and 60% 1RM leg press (104.1% vs. 73.4%; p = 0.0001). The high load/low repetition training induced (p < 0.0001) greater improvements than low load/high repetition with KE, KF, EF MVIC and leg press 1RM. This is the first study to demonstrate cross-education effects with children and that the effects of unilateral training involve both contralateral homologous and heterologous muscles with the greatest strength-training responses from high-load/low-repetition training.

Keywords: cross education; entraînement contre résistance; entraînement croisé; entraînement à la force; pediatric; power output; production de puissance; pédiatrie; resistance training; strength training.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Resistance Training*