The effect of strength training on the force of twitches evoked by corticospinal stimulation in humans

T. J. Carroll, J. Barton, M. Hsu, M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Although there is considerable evidence that strength training causes adaptations in the central nervous system, many details remain unclear. Here we studied neuromuscular responses to strength training of the wrist by recording electromyographic and twitch responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and cervicomedullary stimulation of the corticospinal tract. Methods: Seventeen participants performed 4 weeks (12 sessions) of strength training for the radial deviator (RD) muscles of the wrist (n = 8) or control training without external load (n = 9). TMS recruitment curves were constructed from stimuli at five to eight intensities ranging between 15% below resting motor threshold and maximal stimulator output, both at rest and during isometric wrist extension (EXT) and RD at 10% and 50% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). Responses to weak TMS and cervicomedullary stimulation (set to produce a response of 10% maximal M wave amplitude during 10% MVC EXT contraction) were also compared at contraction strengths ranging from 10% to 75% MVC. Results: Isometric strength increased following strength training (10.7% for the RD MVC, 8.8% for the EXT MVC), but not control training. Strength training also significantly increased the amplitude of TMS- and cervicomedullary-evoked twitches during low-force contractions. Increases in the force-generating capacity of the wrist extensor muscles are unlikely to account for this finding because training did not affect the amplitude of twitches elicited by supra-maximal nerve stimulation. Conclusion: The data suggest that strength training induces adaptations that increase the net gain of corticospinal-motor neuronal projections to the trained muscles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-173
Number of pages13
JournalActa Physiologica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Motor cortex
  • Muscle strength
  • Spinal cord


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