Contralateral effects of unilateral strength and skill training: Modified Delphi consensus to establish key aspects of cross-education

A. Manca, T. Hortobágyi, T. J. Carroll, R. M. Enoka, J. P. Farthing, S. C. Gandevia, D. J. Kidgell, J. L. Taylor, F. Deriu

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Background: Cross-education refers to increased motor output (i.e., force generation, skill) of the opposite, untrained limb following a period of unilateral exercise training. Despite extensive research, several aspects of the transfer phenomenon remain controversial. Methods: A modified two-round Delphi online survey was conducted among international experts to reach consensus on terminology, methodology, mechanisms of action, and translational potential of cross-education, and to provide a framework for future research. Results: Through purposive sampling of the literature, we identified 56 noted experts in the field, of whom 32 completed the survey, and reached consensus (75% threshold) on 17 out of 27 items. Conclusion: Our consensus-based recommendations for future studies are that (1) the term ‘cross-education’ should be adopted to refer to the transfer phenomenon, also specifying if transfer of strength or skill is meant; (2) functional magnetic resonance imaging, short-interval intracortical inhibition and interhemispheric inhibition appear to be promising tools to study the mechanisms of transfer; (3) strategies which maximize cross-education, such as high-intensity training, eccentric contractions, and mirror illusion, seem worth being included in the intervention plan; (4) study protocols should be designed to include at least 13–18 sessions or 4–6 weeks to produce functionally meaningful transfer of strength, and (5) cross-education could be considered as an adjuvant treatment particularly for unilateral orthopedic conditions and sports injuries. Additionally, a clear gap in views emerged between the research field and the purely clinical field. The present consensus statement clarifies relevant aspects of cross-education including neurophysiological, neuroanatomical, and methodological characteristics of the transfer phenomenon, and provides guidance on how to improve the quality and usability of future cross-education studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Cross-education

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