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Type of athletic training affects brain/muscle communication

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The way an athlete´s brain communicates with their muscles depends on the type of training they do regularly, a new study has revealed.

It´s already well established that using endurance training or strength and resistance training prepares an athlete for different types of sports. But researchers at the University of Kansas found that the type of training can also change the way the brain and muscles communicate with each other.

Specifically, the communication between the brain and quadriceps muscles of people who take part in endurance training, such as running long distances, is different from that of those who regularly take part in resistance training and those who are sedentary.

Trent Herda, assistant professor of health, sport and exercise sciences, and Michael Trevino, a doctoral student, recruited 15 healthy volunteers for their study. Five regularly run long distances, five regularly lift weights and five others were classed as sedentary individuals who regularly do neither.

Participants wore mechanomyographic and electromyographic electrode sensors on their quadriceps muscle and extended their leg while seated. The researchers measured muscle responses when the participants extended their leg and then exerted more force.

Results, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences and Muscle and Nerve, showed that the quadriceps muscle fibres of the endurance trainers were able to fire more rapidly.

“The communication between the brains and their muscles was slightly different than the resistance trainers and sedentary individuals,” Herda explained. “This information also suggested that resistance trainers and those who are sedentary were more likely to fatigue sooner, among other things.”

It´s not yet clear why the communication between the brain and muscle was different as a result of different types of exercise, but Herda said it offers leads for new research into neuromechanical differences in muscle function, muscle performance, muscle stiffness and other areas.

The findings also suggest that humans are more naturally suited to aerobic exercise than resistance training for strength, the University of Kansas said.