Muscle activation during maximal voluntary eccentric and concentric knee extension

S H Westing, A G Cresswell, A Thorstensson
European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 1991, 62 (2): 104-8
The aim of this investigation was to study the relationships among movement velocity, torque output and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the knee extensor muscles under eccentric and concentric loading. Fourteen male subjects performed maximal voluntary eccentric and concentric constant-velocity knee extensions at 45, 90, 180 and 360 degrees.s-1. Myoelectric signals were recorded, using surface electrodes, from the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris muscles. For comparison, torque and full-wave rectified EMG signals were amplitude-averaged through the central half (30 degrees-70 degrees) of the range of motion. For each test velocity, eccentric torque was greater than concentric torque (range of mean differences: 20%-146%, P less than 0.05). In contrast, EMG activity for all muscles was lower under eccentric loading than velocity-matched concentric loading (7%-31%, P less than 0.05). Neither torque output nor EMG activity for the three muscles changed across eccentric test velocities (P greater than 0.05). While concentric torque increased with decreasing velocity, EMG activity for all muscles decreased with decreasing velocity (P less than 0.05). These data suggest that under certain high-tension loading conditions (especially during eccentric muscle actions), the neural drive to the agonist muscles was reduced, despite maximal voluntary effort. This may protect the musculoskeletal system from an injury that could result if the muscle was to become fully activated under these conditions.

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