In the middle of applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE In the middle of applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Fast and strong: neural determinants of increases in rate of force development

   School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Jakob Skarabot, Dr J Folland, Dr Alessandro Del Vecchio  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF, 2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career. Find out more.


The ability to develop force quickly (rate of force development) is an important ability associated with athletic performance, injuries, and risk of falls.

Whilst larger muscle mass is typically associated with greater maximal force production, the nervous system output is a key determinant in how quickly one can produce force. Therefore, there may be distinct mechanisms that encode muscle force and the speed of muscle shortening, respectively.

Furthermore, whilst maximal force typically increases following a period of classic resistance training, such training might not necessarily result in greater force development, suggesting that the neuromuscular mechanisms underpinning a change in rate of force development are distinct to those of maximal force.

The aim of this project will be to establish:

  1. The differences in neuromuscular determinants of maximal force vs. rate of force development
  2. The neuromuscular determinants of maximal force vs rate of force development in long-term trained individuals
  3. The nature of training variables causing specific neural adaptations necessary for increasing rate of force development

The project will involve a range of neuromuscular techniques, including measures of mechanical outputs (force, torque), decomposition of high-density surface EMG to discern activity of individual motoneurons, and potentially a range of neurostimulation techniques (nerve stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation).


Primary supervisor: Dr Jakob Škarabot

Secondary supervisors: Professor Jonathan P Folland, Dr Alessandro Del Vecchio (external)


Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of 2:1 (or equivalent) in Sport and Exercise Science, Biomedical Science, Bioengineering or a related degree subject. A relevant MSc degree (e.g., Exercise Physiology, Sports Biomechanics, Bioengineering, Biomedical Science or similar) would be an advantage. A demonstrable interest/experience of neuromuscular research (particularly prior experience of EMG measures) and/or signal processing would be preferred.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Find out more about research degree funding


All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select 'Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences'. Please quote the advertised reference number SSEHS/JSK in your application. To avoid delays in processing your application please ensure that you submit the minimum supporting documents.

Apply now

Funding Notes

UK Fee - £4,500 full time degree per annum
International Fee - £24,100 full time degree per annum
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.


Škarabot J, Balshaw TG, Maeo S, Massey GJ, Lanza MB, Maden-Wilkinson TM, Folland JP. (2021). Neural adaptation to long-term resistance training: evidence for the confounding effect of muscle size on the interpretation of surface electromyography. J Appl Physiol 131:702-715.
Del Vecchio A, Casolo A, Dideriksen JL, Aagaard P, Felici F, Falla D, Farina D. (2021). Lack of increased rate of force development after strength training is explained by specific neural, not muscular, motor unit adaptations. J Appl Physiol, doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00218.2021.
Balshaw TG, Massey GJ, Maden-Wilkinson TM, Tillin NA, Folland JP. (2016). Training-specific functional, neural, and hypertrophic adaptations to explosive- vs. sustained-contraction strength training. J Appl Physiol 120:1364-1373.
Search Suggestions
Search suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs