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Power reserve following ramp-incremental cycling to exhaustion: implications for muscle fatigue and function

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Journal of Applied Physiology



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In ramp-incremental cycling exercise, some individuals are capable of producing power output (PO) in excess of that produced at their limit of tolerance (LoT) whereas others cannot. This study sought to describe the 1) prevalence of a "power reserve" within a group of young men (n = 21; mean +/- SD: age 25 +/- 4 yr; (V) over dotO(2max) 45 +/- 8; and 2) muscle fatigue characteristics of those with and without a power reserve. "Power reserve" (Delta PReserve) was determined as the difference between peak PO achieved during a ramp-incremental test to exhaustion and maximal, single-leg isokinetic dynamometer power determined within 45 s of completing the ramp-incremental test. Between-group differences in pre- vs. postexercise changes in voluntary and electrically stimulated single-leg muscle force production measures (maximal voluntary contraction torque, voluntary activation, maximal isotonic velocity and isokinetic power; 1-, 10-, 50-Hz torque; and 10/50-Hz ratio), (V) over dotO(2max) and constant-PO cycling time-to-exhaustion also were assessed. Frequency distribution analysis revealed a dichotomy in the prevalence of a power reserve within the sample resulting in two groups: 1) "No Reserve" (NRES: power reserve <5%; n = 10) and 2) "Reserve" (RES: power reserve >15%; n = 11). At the LoT, all participants had achieved (V) over dotO(2max). Muscle fatigue was evident in both groups, although the NRES group had greater reductions (P < 0.05) in 10-Hz peak torque (PT), 10/50 Hz ratio, and maximal velocity. Time to the LoT during the constant PO test was 22 +/- 16% greater (P < 0.05) in RES (116 +/- 19 s: PO = 317 +/- 52 W) than in NRES (90 +/- 23 s; PO = 337 +/- 71 W), despite similar ramp-incremental exercise durations and (V) over dotO(2max) between groups. Compared with the RES group, the NRES group accrued greater peripheral muscle fatigue at the LoT, suggesting that the mechanisms contributing to exhaustion in a ramp-incremental protocol are not uniform. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study demonstrates that the mechanisms associated with the limit of tolerance during ramp-incremental cycling exercise differ between those who are capable of generating power output in excess of that at exercise termination vs. those who are not. Those without a "power reserve" exhibit greater peripheral muscle fatigue and reduced muscle endurance, supporting the hypoth- esis that exhaustion occurs at a specific level of neuromuscular fatigue. In contrast, those with a power reserve likely are limited by other mechanisms.

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