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Journal of Physiology

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Due to morphological differences, females demonstrate greater fatigue resistance of locomotor muscle during single-limb and whole-body exercise modalities. Whilst females sustain a greater relative intensity of single-limb, isometric exercise than males, limited investigation has been performed during whole-body exercise. Accordingly, this study established the power–duration relationship during cycling in 18 trained participants (eight females). Subsequently, constant-load exercise was performed at critical power (CP)-matched intensities within the heavy and severe domains, with the mechanisms of fatigability assessed via non-invasive neurostimulation, near-infrared spectroscopy and pulmonary gas exchange during and following exercise. Relative CP (72 ± 5 vs. 74 ± 2% Pmax, P = 0.210) and curvature constant (51 ± 11 vs. 52 ± 10 J Pmax−1, P = 0.733) of the power–duration relationship were similar between males and females. Subsequent heavy (P = 0.758) and severe intensity (P = 0.645) exercise time to task failures were not different between sexes. However, females experienced lesser reductions in contractile function at task failure (P ≤ 0.020), and greater vastus lateralis oxygenation (P ≤ 0.039) during both trials. Reductions in voluntary activation occurred following both trials (P < 0.001), but were less in females following the heavy trial (P = 0.036). Furthermore, during the heavy intensity trial only, corticospinal excitability was reduced at the cortical (P = 0.020) and spinal (P = 0.036) levels, but these reductions were not sex-dependent. Other than a lower respiratory exchange ratio in the heavy trial for females (P = 0.039), no gas exchange variables differed between sexes (P ≥ 0.052). Collectively, these data demonstrate that whilst the relative power–duration relationship is not different between males and females, the mechanisms of fatigability during CP-matched exercise above and below CP are mediated by sex.


Accepted version. Journal of Physiology, Vol. 598, No. 24 (December 2020): 5717-5737. DOI. © 2020 Wiley. Used with permission.

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