Determining the Corticospinal Responses to Single Bouts of Skill and Strength Training

Joel Mason, Ashlyn K. Frazer, Shapour Jaberzadeh, Juha P. Ahtiainen, Janne Avela, Timo Rantalainen, Michael Leung, Dawson J. Kidgell

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Mason, J, Frazer, AK, Jaberzadeh, S, Ahtiainen, JP, Avela, J, Rantalainen, T, Leung, M, and Kidgell, DJ. Determining the corticospinal responses to single bouts of skill and strength training. J Strength Cond Res 33(9): 2299-2307, 2019-Neuroplastic changes in the primary motor cortex accompany performance improvements following motor practice. Recent evidence suggests that the corticospinal responses to strength and skill training are similar, following both a single session and repeated bouts of training, promoting discussion that strength training is a form of motor learning. However, these findings are limited by the lack of a light-load strength training group. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to determine whether a single session of heavy-load strength training, light-load strength training or skill training differentially modulates the corticospinal pathway. Transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to assess the excitatory and inhibitory circuitry of the motor cortex following a single session of skill training, and following a single session of light-load and heavy-load strength training. Following a single session of training, participants in all groups experienced comparable increases in corticospinal excitability (ranging from 38 to 46%, all p < 0.05); however, disparity was observed in the inhibitory responses. Corticospinal inhibition was reduced in all 3 single-sessions, although to a greater magnitude in the heavy-load and skill-training sessions (22 and 18% respectively, compared with 11% following light-load training, all p < 0.05). Short-interval intracortical inhibition was reduced immediately following single sessions of heavy-load strength training (40% p < 0.05) and skill training (47% p < 0.05), but remained unchanged the following light-load strength training session. It appears that the corticospinal responses to single sessions of different types of strength and skill training are task-dependent. These findings reinforce the notion that strength training, at least when heavily-loaded, can be considered a form of motor learning, potentially because of the sensory feedback involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2299-2307
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • corticospinal excitability
  • corticospinal silent period
  • intracortical inhibition
  • neuroplasticity
  • skill training
  • strength exercise

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