Neural adaptations after 4 years vs 12 weeks of resistance training vs untrained

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2019 Mar;29(3):348-359. doi: 10.1111/sms.13331. Epub 2018 Dec 9.


The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of resistance training (RT) duration, including years of exposure, on agonist and antagonist neuromuscular activation throughout the knee extension voluntary torque range. Fifty-seven healthy men (untrained [UNT] n = 29, short-term RT [12WK] n = 14, and long-term RT [4YR] n = 14) performed maximum and sub-maximum (20%-80% maximum voluntary torque [MVT]) unilateral isometric knee extension contractions with torque, agonist and antagonist surface EMG recorded. Agonist EMG, including at MVT, was corrected for the confounding effects of adiposity (ie, muscle-electrode distance; measured with ultrasonography). Quadriceps maximum anatomical cross-sectional area (QACSAMAX ; via MRI) was also assessed. MVT was distinct for all three groups (4YR +60/+39% vs UNT/12WK; 12WK +15% vs UNT; 0.001 < P ≤ 0.021), and QACSAMAX was greater for 4YR (+50/+42% vs UNT/12WK; [both] P < 0.001). Agonist EMG at MVT was +44/+33% greater for 4YR /12WK ([both] P < 0.001) vs. UNT, but did not differ between RT groups. The torque-agonist EMG relationship of 4YR displayed a right/down shift with lower agonist EMG at the highest common torque (196 Nm) compared to 12WK and UNT (0.005 ≤ P ≤ 0.013; Effect size [ES] 0.90 ≤ ES ≤ 1.28). The torque-antagonist EMG relationship displayed a lower slope with increasing RT duration (4YR < 12WK < UNT; 0.001 < P ≤ 0.094; 0.56 ≤ ES ≤ 1.31), and antagonist EMG at the highest common torque was also lower for 4YR than UNT (-69%; P < 0.001; ES = 1.18). In conclusion, 4YR and 12WK had similar agonist activation at MVT and this adaptation may be maximized during early months of RT. In contrast, inter-muscular coordination, specifically antagonist coactivation was progressively lower, and likely continues to adapt, with prolonged RT.

Keywords: agonist muscle; antagonist muscle; maximum strength; strength training; surface electromyography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Electromyography*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction*
  • Knee
  • Male
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Time Factors*
  • Torque
  • Young Adult