The deficit of muscle-force production observed in children can be partly attributed to neural factors, such as an increased level of coactivation. This hypothesis, however, has not been thoroughly investigated under concentric and eccentric isokinetic conditions at different angular velocities. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine whether prepubescent children present higher levels of activation of the antagonist knee muscles during isokinetic, concentric, and eccentric knee efforts compared with adults. Eighteen prepubertal and 13 young adult males (age: 10.9 ± 0.5 and 18.1 ± 0.1 years, respectively) performed maximal concentric and eccentric knee extensions and flexions at 45, 90, and 180 degrees/s. The vastus lateralis and biceps femoris electromyogram was recorded and the antagonist activation (coactivation) was calculated. Concentric contractions for both groups revealed significantly higher coactivation values (p < .05) compared with the eccentric conditions. Furthermore, increasing the angular velocity increased the level of coactivation significantly only during the concentric efforts for both groups. No significant difference in the antagonistic activity of the vastus lateralis and biceps femoris, however, was found between groups. Therefore, increased antagonist knee-muscle activation, which enhances joint stabilization during isokinetic concentric and eccentric effort, is similar in both prepubescent and adult males.
The authors are with the Department of Physical Education & Sports Science, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 54006, Greece.