Neuromuscular Fatigue and Metabolism during High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Aug;51(8):1642-1652. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001959.


Purpose: To examine the degree of neuromuscular fatigue development along with changes in muscle metabolism during two work-matched high-intensity intermittent exercise protocols in trained individuals.

Methods: In a randomized, counter-balanced, crossover design, 11 endurance-trained men performed high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise protocols matched for total work and including either multiple short-duration (18 × 5 s; SS) or long-duration (6 × 20 s; LS) sprints. Neuromuscular fatigue was determined by preexercise to postexercise changes in maximal voluntary contraction force, voluntary activation level and contractile properties of the quadriceps muscle. Metabolites and pH were measured in vastus lateralis muscle biopsies taken before and after the first and last sprint of each exercise protocol.

Results: Peak power output (11% ± 2% vs 16% ± 8%, P < 0.01), maximal voluntary contraction (10% ± 5% vs 25% ± 6%, P < 0.05), and peak twitch force (34% ± 5% vs 67% ± 5%, P < 0.01) declined to a lesser extent in SS than LS, whereas voluntary activation level decreased similarly in SS and LS (10% ± 2% vs 11% ± 4%). Muscle [phosphocreatine] before the last sprint was 1.5-fold lower in SS than LS (P < 0.001). Preexercise to postexercise intramuscular accumulation of lactate and H was twofold and threefold lower, respectively, in SS than LS (P < 0.001), whereas muscle glycogen depletion was similar in SS and LS. Rate of muscle glycolysis was similar in SS and LS during the first sprint, but twofold higher in SS than LS during the last sprint (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: These findings indicate that, in endurance-trained individuals, multiple long-sprints induce larger impairments in performance along with greater degrees of peripheral fatigue compared to work-matched multiple short-sprints, with these differences being possibly attributed to more extensive intramuscular accumulation of lactate/H and to lower rates of glycolysis during multiple long-sprint exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicarbonates / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Phosphocreatine / metabolism
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / metabolism*


  • Bicarbonates
  • Blood Glucose
  • Phosphocreatine
  • Lactic Acid
  • Glycogen