The purpose of this paper is three-fold: (a) to summarize available data on coordination of major two- and one-joint muscles in multijoint tasks and identify basic features of muscle coordination, (b) to demonstrate that there may exist an optimization criterion that predicts essential features of electromyographic activity of individual muscles in a variety of tasks, and (c) to address the functional consequences of the observed muscle coordination and underlying mechanisms of its control. The analysis of the literature revealed that basic features of muscle coordination are similar among different voluntary motor tasks and reflex responses. It is demonstrated that these basic features of coordination of one- and two-joint muscles in two-dimensional tasks are qualitatively predicted by minimizing the sum of muscle stresses cubed. Functional consequences of the observed coordination of one- and two-joint muscles are (a) reduction of muscle force as well as stress, mechanical and metabolic energy expenditure, muscle fatigue, and perceived effort; (b) a spring-like behavior of a multi-joint limb during maintenance of an equilibrium posture; and (c) energy transfer between joints via two-joint muscles. A conceptual scheme of connections between motoneuron pools of one- and two-joint muscles, which accounts for the observed muscle coordination, is proposed. An important part of this scheme is the force-dependent inhibition and excitation from two-joint to one-joint synergists and antagonists, respectively.
The author is with the Center for Human Movement Studies and the Department of Health and Performance Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332. This article is based in part on the presentation given by the author at the Satellite Symposium of the 20th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics: “Biarticular Muscles: Biomechanics and Neural Control,” 1996, Atlanta, GA.