Bilateral Improvements Following Unilateral Home-Based Training in Plantar Flexors: A Potential for Cross-Education in Rehabilitation

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Sumona Mandal University College London Medical School, London, United Kingdom

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Liang Zhi Wong University College London Medical School, London, United Kingdom

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Niall D. Simmons University College London Medical School, London, United Kingdom

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Andreas Mirallais University College London Medical School, London, United Kingdom

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Flaminia Ronca The Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, London, United Kingdom

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Bhavesh Kumar The Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, London, United Kingdom

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Context: Cross-education (CE) refers to neuromuscular gains in the untrained limb upon contralateral limb training. To date, only laboratory-based exercise programs have demonstrated CE. Home-based exercise prescription eliciting CE could have greater clinical applicability. Objective: To determine the effect of an 8-week, home-based unilateral strength training intervention on isokinetic muscle strength, muscular excitation, and power in trained and untrained plantar flexors. Design: Randomized controlled trial. Methods: Thirty-four healthy participants were randomized to intervention (n = 20) or control (n = 14). The intervention group completed 3 sets of 12 repetitions of progressively loaded unilateral calf raises 3 days per week. Concentric and eccentric peak torque were measured using isokinetic dynamometry at 30°/s and 120°/s. Maximal electromyogram amplitude was simultaneously measured. Power was measured using a jump mat. All variables were measured at preintervention, midintervention, and postintervention. Results: Strength significantly increased bilaterally pre–post at both velocities concentrically and eccentrically in intervention group participants. Maximal electromyogram amplitude significantly increased pre–post bilaterally at both velocities in the medial gastrocnemii of the intervention group. Power significantly increased bilaterally pre–post in the intervention group, with a dose–response effect demonstrated in the untrained plantar flexors. The CE effects of strength, power, and electromyogram activation were 23.4%, 14.6%, and 25.3%, respectively. All control group values were unchanged pre–post. Conclusion: This study shows that a simple at-home unilateral plantar flexor exercise protocol induces significant increases in contralateral strength, muscular excitation, and power. These results suggest the applicability of CE in home rehabilitation programs aiming to restore or maintain neuromuscular function in inactive individuals or immobilized ankles.

Mandal (sumona.mandal.16@ucl.ac.uk) is corresponding author.

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