The effects of voluntary contraction effort on quadriceps femoris electromyogram median frequency in humans: a muscle and sex comparison

Danny M Pincivero, Alan J Coelho, Robert M Campy, Yuliya Salfetnikov, Ashley Bright
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2002, 87 (4): 448-55
The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of voluntary contraction efforts on the median frequency (f(med)) of the electromyogram (EMG) recorded from the quadriceps femoris muscle in healthy men and women. A group of 30 healthy volunteers (15 men, 15 women) were assessed for EMG activity of the vastus medialis (VM), vastus lateralis (VL), and rectus femoris (RF) muscles during isometric contractions with the knee at 60 degrees flexion. Subjects performed a series of 5 s maximal voluntary isometric contractions that anchored the perceptual range with a "10" on a 10-point scale. Sub-maximal isometric contractions were then separately performed at the following perceived effort levels on the 10-point scale: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, in a random order. Subjects were instructed to maintain the contraction at each perceived level of effort for 5 s. The f(med) of the three muscles was assessed using a power spectrum analysis performed over 11 consecutive, 512 ms, epochs overlapping each other by half their length during the middle 3 s of each contraction. The f(med) for each of the 11 epochs was then determined for each muscle, followed by calculation of the means and normalized coefficients of variation [(standard deviation/mean)x100%] for each contraction. The results demonstrated that the mean f(med) of VL was significantly greater than those of the other two muscles, and that f(med) of RF was significantly greater than that of VM. The VL muscle demonstrated a significant increase in mean f(med) across the contraction efforts, compared to the VM and RF muscles that displayed a significant decrease. The men displayed significantly higher f(med) values for the VM muscle than did the women, as well as showing a significantly greater increase across the contraction efforts for the VL muscle. The variability of f(med) was shown to be significantly higher for the VM muscle, compared to the VL and RF muscles. The findings of this study suggest that the f(med) statistic is most sensitive to contraction intensity efforts for the VL muscle, and that men display significantly higher values for the VL and VM muscles, compared to women.

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