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Human muscle fatigue: frequency dependence of excitation and force generation.

  • R G Cooper
  • R H Edwards
  • H Gibson
  • M J Stokes
Publication Date
Mar 01, 1988


1. Human adductor pollicis was fatigued using intermittent trains of programmed stimulation at 1, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1 Hz, during activity with and without circulatory occlusion, to investigate the relationships between force generation, excitation and maximal relaxation rate (MRR). 2. The relationship between force generation and excitation was markedly dependent on stimulation frequency. Force loss was greatest at low frequencies, with little reduction in excitation, but as frequency increased force was well maintained despite marked loss of excitation. 3. Changes in MRR during activity and recovery were independent of stimulation frequency. 4. Marked increases of force at 1 Hz (pre-tetanic) and 10 Hz occurred, with little reduction in excitation, during activity with and without circulatory occlusion. This may be due to post-tetanic potentiation in addition to slowing of relaxation (MRR). 5. At high frequency a 'safety factor' may thus operate to maintain force, despite obvious loss of excitation, while at low frequencies there may be marked potentiation of force, despite unchanged excitation. These mechanisms could permit resistance to fatigue with muscle function remaining optimal over a range of conditions.

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