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Postactivation Potentiation and the Asynchronous Action of Muscular and Neural Responses

Anthi Xenofondos, Anastasia Papavasileiou, Eleni Bassa, Ioannis S. Vrabas, and Dimitrios A. Patikas

Purpose: This study examined the underlying mechanisms of postactivation potentiation and the time course of muscular- and neural-related variables. Methods: Fourteen trained males executed 4 sets of six 6-second maximum isometric conditioning plantar flexions, with 15 seconds and 2 minutes of interval between the contractions and sets, respectively. Peak twitch torque (TT), rate of torque development, time to peak torque, half relaxation time, and the neural-related variables of H-reflex and electromyogram, normalized to the maximum M-wave (H/M and RMS/M, respectively), were evaluated, as well as the level of the voluntary activation, assessed by the twitch interpolation technique. All neural-related variables were analyzed for the trial within each set when TT was maximal and for the trial within each set when the neural-related variable itself was maximal. Results: Compared with the baseline measures, TT and rate of torque development significantly increased in all sets (P < .001), whereas time to peak torque and half relaxation time significantly decreased in sets 1 to 4 and 2 to 4, respectively (P < .001). However, H/M and the RMS/M did not change for the repetition of each set for which the TT was maximal (P > .05). Interestingly, the within-set maximum H/M ratio of the lateral gastrocnemius muscle revealed a significant increase in all sets (P < .05), compared with the baseline measures. Conclusion: One set of 4 contractions with 6-second duration is sufficient to cause postactivation potentiation for most participants, whereas peak TT augmentation does not coincide with changes in the examined neural-related variables. Further experiments should consider the time lag on their maximal values and their inherent between-participants variability.