Contrasting effects of heat stress on neuromuscular performance

Derek Ball* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


The effect of thermal stress on human work capacity and neuromuscular function has been of interest to physiologists since the 19th century. The aim of the pre- sent review is to examine the impact of exposure to heat stress on neuromuscular performance. Exposure to heat stress during exercise is known to increase strain on the cardiovascular system owing to the competing demands of skeletal muscle perfusion and homeostatic thermoregulation. The effects of exposure to heat stress on the neuromuscular system are more complex, because in some circumstances an elevation in muscle temperature leads to an improvement in function, whereas in other circumstances an increase in temperature leads to a decrement in function that is a consequence of the mode, metabolic demand and duration of the exercise. The ability to sustain isometric tension is impaired with an elevated muscle temperature and so too is locomotor capacity over prolonged periods of time. In contrast, peak power production is enhanced by increasing muscle temperature but is achieved at the expense of maintaining power output, owing to a higher rate of decay in power production. The different effects on neuromuscular function at an elevated muscle temperature are explained, in part, by a higher rate of energy turnover. In addition, the effect of an elevated core temperature also appears to impair neuromuscular performance either owing to a reduced voluntary drive in motor unit recruitment or to a failure in muscle afferent feedback, or a combination of the two.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2328-2334
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number12
Early online date15 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
EventFatigue as a limitation to performance: Satellite conference - Conference centre, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Jul 20197 Jul 2019


  • fatigue
  • heat
  • neuromuscular


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