In an effort to seek further understanding of lower limb muscle function in the rowing movement, an electromyographic analysis was undertaken of rowers rowing on a Gjessing ergometer. A strain gauged transducer was inserted in the ergometer linkage between handle and flywheel to detect pulling force. Electrodes were placed on the following lower limb muscles: gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, gastrocnemius, and tibialis anterior. Linear envelope electromyograms from each muscle and the force signals were sampled synchronously at 50 Hz. The results indicated that all six muscles were active from catch to finish of the drive phase. Biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius, and vastus lateralis all began their activity at or just prior to catch and reached maximal excitation near peak force of the stroke. Rectus femoris and tibialis anterior activity began prior to the catch and reached maximal excitation subsequent to peak force. The coactivation of the five leg muscles, of which four were biarticular, included potentially antagonistic actions that would cancel each other’s effects. Clearly, however, other explanations must be considered. Both gastrocnemius and biceps femoris have been shown to act as knee extensors and may do so in the case of the rowing action. Furthermore, rectus femoris may act with unchanging length as a knee extensor by functioning as a rigid link between the pelvis and tibia. In this manner, energy created by the hip extensors is transferred across the knee joint via the isometrically contracting rectus femoris muscle.
The authors are with the University of Ottawa. Address correspondence to Gordon Robertson, School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada KIN 6N5.