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Prilutsky's paper is mainly concerned with the coordination of one- and two-joint muscles. This commentary on the paper addresses the question why we have two-joint muscles in the first place. From an evolutionary point of view, two-joint muscles must have contributed to fitness by presenting a solution to problems that could not be solved with musculoskeletal systems comprising only one-joint muscles. One such problem, not mentioned by Prilutsky, is the following. In a system equipped with only one-joint muscles, satisfying directional constraints would demand, in certain phases of movements, deactivation of muscles that are shortening. Consequently, the work output of these muscles would be limited. The incorporation of two-joint muscles helps to overcome this problem. The reason is that it offers the possibility to redistribute energy across joints, thereby making it possible to accomplish more successfully the difficult task of producing work while steering the movement.
The authors are with the Institute for Fundamental and Clinical Human Movement Sciences in the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences at the Free University, Van der Boechorststeaat 9, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.