Reduced stretch reflex sensitivity and muscle stiffness after long-lasting stretch-shortening cycle exercise in humans

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1998 Oct;78(5):403-10. doi: 10.1007/s004210050438.


It has been suggested that during repeated long-term stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) exercise the decreased neuromuscular function may result partly from alterations in stiffness regulation. Therefore, interaction between the short latency stretch-reflex component (M1) and muscle stiffness and their influences on muscle performance were investigated before and after long lasting SSC exercise. The test protocol included various jumps on a sledge ergometer. The interpretation of the sensitivity of the reflex was based on the measurements of the patellar reflexes and the M1 reflex components. The peak muscle stiffness was measured indirectly and calculated as a coefficient of the changes in the Achilles tendon force and the muscle length. The fatigue protocol induced a marked impairment of the neuromuscular function in maximal SSC jumps. This was demonstrated by a 14.1%-17.7% (n.s. - P < 0.001) reduction in the mean eccentric forces and a 17.3%-31.8% (n.s. - P < 0.05) reduction in the corresponding M1 area under the electromyograms. Both of these methods of assessing the short latency reflex response showed a clear deterioration in the sensitivity of the reflex after fatigue (P < 0.05-0.001). This was also the case for the eccentric peak stiffness of the soleus muscle which declined immediately after fatigue by 5.4% to 7.1% (n.s. - P < 0.05) depending on the jump condition. The results observed would suggest that the modulation of neural input to the muscle was at least partly of reflex origin from the contracting muscle, and furthermore, that the reduced muscle stiffness which accompanied the decreased reflex sensitivity could have been partly responsible for the weakened muscle performance due to impaired utilization of elastic energy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • H-Reflex / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing