Motor adaptations to unilateral quadriceps fatigue during a bilateral pedaling task

N-P Brøchner Nielsen, F Hug, A Guével, V Fohanno, J Lardy, S Dorel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study was designed to investigate how motor coordination adapts to unilateral fatigue of the quadriceps during a constant-load bilateral pedaling task. We first hypothesized that this local fatigue would not be compensated within the fatigued muscles leading to a decreased knee extension power. Then, we aimed to determine whether this decrease would be compensated by between-joints compensations within the ipsilateral leg and/or an increased contribution of the contralateral leg. Fifteen healthy volunteers were tested during pedaling at 350 W before and after a fatigue protocol consisting of 15 minutes of electromyostimulation on the quadriceps muscle. Motor coordination was assessed from myoelectrical activity (22 muscles) and joint powers calculated through inverse dynamics. Maximal knee extension torque decreased by 28.3%±6.8% (P<.0005) immediately after electromyostimulation. A decreased knee extension power produced by the ipsilateral leg was observed during pedaling (-22.8±12.3 W, -17.0%±9.4%; P<.0005). To maintain the task goal, participants primarily increased the power produced by the non-fatigued contralateral leg during the flexion phase. This was achieved by an increase in hip flexion power confirmed by a higher activation of the tensor fascia latae. These results suggest no adjustment of neural drive to the fatigued muscles and demonstrate no concurrent ipsilateral compensation by the non-fatigued muscles involved in the extension pedaling phase. Although interindividual variability was observed, findings provide evidence that participants predominantly adapted by compensating with the contralateral leg during its flexion phase. Both neural (between legs) and mechanical (between pedals) couplings and the minimization of cost functions might explain these results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1724-1738
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2016 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Biomechanical Phenomena/physiology
  • Bicycling/physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Test
  • Muscle Contraction/physiology
  • Muscle compensation
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Quadriceps Muscle/physiology
  • Torque

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Motor adaptations to unilateral quadriceps fatigue during a bilateral pedaling task'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this