Neurophysiological responses after short-term strength training of the biceps brachii muscle

Dawson J. Kidgell, Mark A. Stokes, Troy J. Castricum, Alan J. Pearce

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The neural adaptations that mediate the increase in strength in the early phase of a strength training program are not well understood; however, changes in neural drive and corticospinal excitability have been hypothesized. To determine the neural adaptations to strength training, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to compare the effect of strength training of the right elbow flexor muscles on the functional properties of the corticospinal pathway. Motorevoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the right biceps brachii (BB) muscle from 23 individuals (training group; n = 13 and control group; n = 10) before and after 4 weeks of progressive overload strength training at 80% of 1-repetition maximum (1RM). The TMS was delivered at 10% of the root mean square electromyographic signal (rmsEMG) obtained from a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) at intensities of 5% of stimulator output below active motor threshold (AMT) until saturation of the MEP (MEPmax). Strength training resulted in a 28% (p = 0.0001) increase in 1RM strength, and this was accompanied by a 53% increase (p = 0.05) in the amplitude of the MEP at AMT, 33% (p = 0.05) increase in MEP at 20% above AMT, and a 38% increase at MEPmax (p = 0.04). There were no significant differences in the estimated slope (p = 0.47) or peak slope of the stimulus-response curve for the left primary motor cortex (M1) after strength training (p = 0.61). These results demonstrate that heavy-load isotonic strength training alters neural transmission via the corticospinal pathway projecting to the motoneurons controlling BB and in part underpin the strength changes observed in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3123-3132
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Biceps brachii
  • Controlled strength training
  • Corticospinal
  • Electromyography
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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