High altitude increases alteration in maximal torque but not in rapid torque development in knee extensors after repeated treadmill sprinting

Olivier Girard, Franck Brocherie, Grégoire P. Millet

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We assessed knee extensor neuromuscular adjustments following repeated treadmill sprints in different normobaric hypoxia conditions, with special reference to rapid muscle torque production capacity. Thirteen team- and racquet-sport athletes undertook 8 × 5-s "all-out" sprints (passive recovery = 25 s) on a non-motorized treadmill in normoxia (NM; FiO2 = 20.9%), at low (LA; FiO2 = 16.8%) and high (HA; FiO2 = 13.3%) normobaric hypoxia (simulated altitudes of ~1800 m and ~3600 m, respectively). Explosive (~1 s; "fast" instruction) and maximal (~5 s; "hard" instruction) voluntary isometric contractions (MVC) of the knee extensors (KE), with concurrent electromyographic (EMG) activity recordings of the vastus lateralis (VL) and rectus femoris (RF) muscles, were performed before and 1-min post-exercise. Rate of torque development (RTD) and EMG (i.e., Root Mean Square or RMS) rise from 0 to 30, -50, -100, and -200 ms were recorded, and were also normalized to maximal torque and EMG values, respectively. Distance covered during the first 5-s sprint was similar (P > 0.05) in all conditions. A larger (P < 0.05) sprint decrement score and a shorter (P < 0.05) cumulated distance covered over the eight sprints occurred in HA (-8 ± 4% and 178 ± 11 m) but not in LA (-7 ± 3% and 181 ± 10 m) compared to NM (-5 ± 2% and 183 ± 9 m). Compared to NM (-9 ± 7%), a larger (P < 0.05) reduction in MVC torque occurred post-exercise in HA (-14 ± 9%) but not in LA (-12 ± 7%), with no difference between NM and LA (P > 0.05). Irrespectively of condition (P > 0.05), peak RTD (-6 ± 11%; P < 0.05), and normalized peak RMS activity for VL (-8 ± 11%; P = 0.07) and RF (-14 ± 11%; P < 0.01) muscles were reduced post-exercise, whereas reductions (P < 0.05) in absolute RTD occurred within the 0-100 (-8 ± 9%) and 0-200 ms (-10 ± 8%) epochs after contraction onset. After normalization to MVC torque, there was no difference in RTD values. Additionally, the EMG rise for VL muscle was similar (P > 0.05), whereas it increased (P < 0.05) for RF muscle during all epochs post-exercise, independently of the conditions. In summary, alteration in repeated-sprint ability and post-exercise MVC decrease were greater at high altitude than in normoxia or at low altitude. However, the post-exercise alterations in RTD were similar between normoxia and low-to-high hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number97
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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