Knee extensor torque and quadriceps femoris EMG during perceptually-guided isometric contractions

D M Pincivero, A J Coelho, R M Campy, Y Salfetnikov, E Suter
Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2003, 13 (2): 159-67
The aim of this study was to examine superficial quadriceps femoris (QF) EMG and torque at perceived voluntary contraction efforts. Thirty subjects (15 males, 15 females) performed 9, 5 s, sub-maximal contractions at prescribed levels of perceived voluntary effort at points 1-9 on an 11-point scale (0-10), in a random order. Surface electromyograms (EMG) of the vastus medialis (VM), vastus lateralis (VL), and rectus femoris (RF) muscles, as well as QF peak torque (PT), average torque (AT), and torque coefficient of variation (C.V.), were sampled. The raw EMG signals were full-wave rectified and integrated over the middle three s of each contraction. The sampled EMG signals, and PT and AT at each perceived exertion level were normalized to the average of three maximal voluntary contractions. The normalized EMG and torque values at each perceived exertion level were then compared to equivalent percent values (i.e., 10% at a perceived level of 1). The results demonstrated that at all perceived exertion levels, with the exception of the RF at a level of 2 which was equivalent to 20%, and the VL and RF muscles at a level 1 in which activation was greater than 10%, activation was significantly less than the equivalent percent value at each point on the scale. VM EMG was found to be less than the VL and RF from contraction levels 3-9. PT was shown to be less than the equivalent percent values at contraction levels 6-9. The AT was found to be lower than the expected percent value at perceived effort levels 2-9. Torque C.V. was not found to be different across the range of perceived effort. The major findings of this study suggested that humans over-estimate voluntary QF muscle torque when guided by perceptual sensations. It is also suggested that the produced EMG signals revealed a reliance on the VL muscle for knee extensor torque generation at sub-maximal levels.

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