EMG power spectrum and features of the superimposed M-wave during voluntary eccentric and concentric actions at different activation levels

V Linnamo, V Strojnik, P V Komi
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2002, 86 (6): 534-40
Muscle fiber conduction velocity (CV) may be affected by the level of voluntary activation and by the diameter of the fiber. Both the frequency component of the electromyography (EMG) power spectrum, such the as median frequency (MF) or mean power frequency, and the duration of muscle compound action potential to single supramaximal electrical impulse (maximal M-wave) may be related to CV. The aim of the present study was to examine how changes in the activation level in lengthening and in shortening conditions would affect the EMG power spectrum during voluntary effort, and compare them to changes in M-wave shape in similar conditions. Ten male subjects performed eccentric and concentric knee extensions at force levels of 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% of maximal eccentric and concentric knee extension force (maximum voluntary contraction, MVC) at an angular velocity of 2 rad.s(-1). In order to measure the M-wave at each force level and in a relaxed condition, a supramaximal electrical stimulus was given to the femoral nerve. The surface EMG was recorded from the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris muscles, and the average EMG (aEMG) and MF were calculated. The results show that although the absolute force was greater, the aEMG was generally lower in eccentric as compared to concentric actions at all of the force levels tested. Although the aEMG increased as force increased, no consistent differences were observed in the amplitude of the maximal M-wave in any of the conditions, or in the duration of the M-wave between eccentric and concentric actions. However, as the force level increased the duration of the M-wave decreased significantly ( P<0.01) for both eccentric and concentric actions. On average, no major differences were observed in MF between eccentric and concentric actions or between the force levels in either type of contraction, although rather large variations were observed throughout the motions. In voluntary situations, the recruitment of fast motor units with higher muscle fiber CVs and the increased firing rate of the active units increases the muscle fiber CV as the activation level increases. Even though in conditions of supramaximal electrical nerve stimulation all motor units should be activated simultaneously, the duration of the M-wave in the present study decreased as the force level increased. Possible candidates for the change in the CV may be increased activation of the Na(+)/K(+) pump resulting from the activity in the muscle preceding the electrical stimulation and/or changes in the muscle fiber length between different force levels.

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