This series of reviews focuses on the most important neuromuscular function in many sport performances, the ability to generate maximal muscular power. Part 1 focuses on the factors that affect maximal power production, while part 2, which will follow in a forthcoming edition of Sports Medicine, explores the practical application of these findings by reviewing the scientific literature relevant to the development of training programmes that most effectively enhance maximal power production. The ability of the neuromuscular system to generate maximal power is affected by a range of interrelated factors. Maximal muscular power is defined and limited by the force-velocity relationship and affected by the length-tension relationship. The ability to generate maximal power is influenced by the type of muscle action involved and, in particular, the time available to develop force, storage and utilization of elastic energy, interactions of contractile and elastic elements, potentiation of contractile and elastic filaments as well as stretch reflexes. Furthermore, maximal power production is influenced by morphological factors including fibre type contribution to whole muscle area, muscle architectural features and tendon properties as well as neural factors including motor unit recruitment, firing frequency, synchronization and inter-muscular coordination. In addition, acute changes in the muscle environment (i.e. alterations resulting from fatigue, changes in hormone milieu and muscle temperature) impact the ability to generate maximal power. Resistance training has been shown to impact each of these neuromuscular factors in quite specific ways. Therefore, an understanding of the biological basis of maximal power production is essential for developing training programmes that effectively enhance maximal power production in the human.
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