The purpose of this study was to examine task and sex differences in forearm muscle oxygenation, measured using near infrared spectroscopy, during sustained submaximal handgrip exercises. Forty-eight adults (50% males) performed fatiguing handgrip exercises at 20, 40, 60 and 80% of their maximum handgrip strength. While males and females exhibited similar levels of relative fatigability, forearm oxygenation was found to be task (i.e. contraction intensity and phase of fatigue development) and sex dependent. Higher contraction intensities were associated with greater desaturation over time. Compared to females, males exhibited greater desaturation as fatigue progressed and this was augmented at higher contraction intensities. These may be likely affected by sex differences in muscle mass, morphology and strength differences during exercises at relative intensities. Future work that explores sex differences in muscle oxygenation during absolute force intensities are needed, which may have implications for muscle fatigue development and potential fatigue mitigation strategies. Practitioner Summary: Muscle oxygenation impacts fatigue development that can in turn affect worker health and productivity. Males exhibit greater forearm desaturation than females at higher relative work intensities, despite similar fatigue levels. Females may be predisposed to greater muscle delivery and oxygenation challenges that can increase their fatigability during work at absolute load levels.
- NIRSUpper ExtremityGenderIntensityStrength