Differential changes in muscle architecture and neuromuscular fatigability induced by isometric resistance training at short and long muscle-tendon unit lengths

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2020 Jul 1;129(1):173-184. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00280.2020. Epub 2020 Jun 18.


We evaluated the effects of differential muscle architectural adaptations on neuromuscular fatigue resistance. Seven young males and six females participated in this study. Using a longitudinal within-subject design, legs were randomly assigned to perform isometric training of the tibialis anterior (TA) three times per week for 8 wk at a short (S-group) or long muscle-tendon unit length (L-group). Before and following training, fascicle length (FL) and pennation angle (PA) of the TA were assessed. As well, fatigue-related time course changes in isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) torque and isotonic peak power (20% MVC resistance) were determined before, immediately after, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 min following task failure. The fatiguing task consisted of repeated maximal effort isotonic (20% MVC resistance) contractions over a 40° range of motion until the participant reached a 40% reduction in peak power. Although there was no clear improvement in neuromuscular fatigue resistance following training in either group (P = 0.081; S-group: ∼20%; L-group: ∼51%), the change in neuromuscular fatigue resistance was related positively to the training-induced increase in PA (∼6%, P < 0.001) in the S-group (r = 0.739, P = 0.004) and negatively to the training-induced increase in FL (∼4%, P = 0.001) in the L-group (r = -0.568, P = 0.043). Both groups recovered similarly for MVC torque and peak power after the fatiguing task as compared with before training. We suggest that the relationships between the changes in muscle architecture and neuromuscular fatigue resistance depend on the muscle-tendon unit lengths at which the training is performed.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Eight weeks of isometric training at a long or short muscle-tendon unit length increased and did not change fascicle length, respectively. The "width" of the torque-angle relationship plateau became broader following isometric training at the long length. Despite marked differences in muscle architecture and functional adaptations between the groups, there was only a small-magnitude improvement in neuromuscular fatigue resistance, which was surprisingly negatively related to increased fascicle length in the long length-training group.

Keywords: dorsiflexion; fascicle length; isometric and isotonic contractions; number of repetitions to failure; pennation angle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Resistance Training*
  • Tendons
  • Torque