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  • Author: Akinori Nagano x
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Akinori Nagano and Karin G.M. Gerritsen

The purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to systematically investigate the effect of altering specific neuromuscular parameters on maximum vertical jump height, and (b) to systematically investigate the effect of strengthening specific muscle groups on maximum vertical jump height. A two-dimensional musculoskeletal model which consisted of four rigid segments, three joints, and six Hill-type muscle models, representing the six major muscles and muscle groups in the lower extremity that contribute to jumping performance, was trained systematically. Maximum isometric muscle force, maximum muscle shortening velocity, and maximum muscle activation, which were manipulated to simulate the effects of strength training, all had substantial effects on jumping performance. Part of the increase in jumping performance could be explained solely by the interaction between the three neuromuscular parameters. It appeared that the most effective way to improve jumping performance was to train the knee extensors among all lower extremity muscles. For the model to fully benefit from any training effects of the neuromuscular system, it was necessary to continue to reoptimize the muscle coordination, in particular after the strength training sessions that focused on increasing maximum isometric muscle force.

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Akinori Nagano, Shinsuke Yoshioka, Dean Charles Hay and Senshi Fukashiro

The purpose of this study was to test whether a light finger touch on one’s own body (upper legs) reduces postural sway. Ten healthy males participated. In the first part of the study, the participants stood upright with their eyes closed on a force platform while ground reaction force data were collected. Two conditions differing in the placement of the arms and fingers were tested. In the no-touch condition, the participants kept their hands in loose fists. In the finger-touch condition, the participants lightly touched the lateral sides of the upper legs with all fingers. Postural sway measures were calculated from the ground reaction force data. In the second part of the study, the participants stood upright on a pneumatic balance disk while ground reaction force data were collected. Experimental and measurement protocols were identical to those used in the first part of the study. The results showed that light finger touch on the upper legs significantly reduced postural sway on the balance disk up to ~7%. The data from this study suggest that decreased postural sway due to finger contact may improve balance control during other standing tasks.

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Akinori Nagano, Senshi Fukashiro and Taku Komura

Contribution of series elasticity of the human mm. triceps surae in cyclic heel-raise exercise (similar to hopping but the feet do not leave the floor) was examined via computer modeling and simulation. A two-dimensional skeletal model of the human body was constructed. Upright posture was maintained throughout the simulation to prevent the model from falling. A mathematical representation of the mm. triceps surae was implemented in the skeletal model. The muscle was activated by the neural activation input signal with a time resolution of 0.050 sec. Cyclic heel-raise exercises of cycle duration ranging from 0.300 sec to 0.900 sec, corresponding to the motion frequency of 200 to 66.7 cycles/min, were generated using an optimization approach. The goal of the numerical optimization was to generate cyclic motions with as much range of motion as possible. As a result, realistic heel-raise motions were generated with the range of motion between 0.0023 m (cycle duration = 0.300 sec) and 0.0414 m (cycle duration = 0.900 sec). It was found that contribution of the series elasticity in positive mechanical work output of the muscle-tendon complex during the pushoff phase (from the lowest position to the termination of a cycle) increased as motion frequency increased (3% at 66.7 cycles/min to 47% at 200 cycles/min). Relatively higher muscle activation was found during the downward moving phase when the motion frequency was higher. These tendencies are consistent with the findings reported in preceding studies involving experimental animals as well as human participants. It is suggested that series elasticity plays an integral role in the generation of cyclic human motions.

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Akinori Nagano, Taku Komura and Senshi Fukashiro

The two goals of this study were (a) to evaluate the effects of the series elasticity of the muscle tendon complex on an explosive performance that allows a counter movement, and (b) to determine whether or not a counter movement is automatically generated in the optimal explosive activity, using computer simulation. A computer simulation model of the Hill-type muscle tendon complex, which is composed of a contractile element (CE) and a series elastic element (SEE), was constructed. The proximal end of the CE was affixed to a point in the gravitational field, and a massless supporting object was affixed to the distal end of the SEE. An inertia was held on the supporting object. The goal of the explosive activity was to maximize the height reached by the inertia. A variation of the SEE elasticity was examined within the natural range. The optimal pattern of neural activation input was sought through numerical optimization for each value of the SEE elasticity. Two major findings were obtained: (a) As the SEE elasticity increased, the maximal height reached by the inertia increased. This was primarily due to the enhanced force development of the CE. (b) A counter movement was automatically generated for all values of the SEE elasticity through the numerical optimization. It is suggested that it is beneficial to make a counter movement in order to reach a greater jump height, and the effect of making a counter movement increases as the elasticity of the muscle tendon complex increases.

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Hiroshi Arakawa, Akinori Nagano, Dean C. Hay and Hiroaki Kanehisa

The current study aimed to investigate the effect of ankle restriction on the coordination of vertical jumping and discuss the influence of energy transfer through m. gastrocnemius on the multijoint movement. Eight participants performed two types of vertical jumps: a normal squat jump, and a squat jump with restricted ankle joint movement. Mechanical outputs were calculated using an inverse dynamics analysis. Custom-made shoes were used to restrict plantar flexion, resulting in significantly (P < .001) reduced maximum power and work at the ankle joint to below 2% and 3%, while maintaining natural range of motion at the hip and knee. Based on the comparison between the two types of jumps, we determined that the ankle restriction increased (P < .001) the power (827 ± 346 W vs. 1276 ± 326 W) and work (92 ± 34 J vs. 144 ± 36 J) at the knee joint. A large part of the enhanced output at the knee is assumed to be due to ankle restriction, which results in the nullification of energy transport via m. gastrocnemius; that is, reduced contribution of the energy transfer with ankle restriction appeared as augmentation at the knee joint.

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Senshi Fukashiro, Dean C. Hay and Akinori Nagano

This paper reviews the research findings regarding the force and length changes of the muscle-tendon complex during dynamic human movements, especially those using ultrasonography and computer simulation. The use of ultrasonography demonstrated that the tendinous structures of the muscle-tendon complex are compliant enough to influence the biomechanical behavior (length change, shortening velocity, and so on) of fascicles substantially. It was discussed that the fascicles are a force generator rather than a work generator; the tendinous structures function not only as an energy re-distributor but also as a power amplifier, and the interaction between fascicles and tendinous structures is essential for generating higher joint power outputs during the late pushoff phase in human vertical jumping. This phenomenon could be explained based on the force-length/velocity relationships of each element (contractile and series elastic elements) in the muscle-tendon complex during movements. Through computer simulation using a Hill-type muscle-tendon complex model, the benefit of making a countermovement was examined in relation to the compliance of the muscle-tendon complex and the length ratio between the contractile and series elastic elements. Also, the integral roles of the series elastic element were simulated in a cyclic human heel-raise exercise. It was suggested that the storage and reutilization of elastic energy by the tendinous structures play an important role in enhancing work output and movement efficiency in many sorts of human movements.

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Nobuaki Tottori, Tadashi Suga, Yuto Miyake, Ryo Tsuchikane, Mitsuo Otsuka, Akinori Nagano, Satoshi Fujita and Tadao Isaka

Purpose: We attempted to determine the relationships between the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the trunk and lower limb muscles and sprint performance in male preadolescent sprinters. Methods: Fifteen sprint-trained preadolescent boys (age 11.6 ± 0.4 y) participated in this study. The CSAs of the participants’ trunk and lower limb muscles were measured using magnetic resonance imaging, and these muscles were normalized with free-fat mass. To assess participants’ sprint performance, sprint time and variables during the 50-m sprint test were measured. The sprint variables were expressed as their indices by normalizing with body height. Results: The relative CSAs of psoas major, adductors, and quadriceps femoris were significantly correlated with sprint time (r = −.802, −.643, and −.639). Moreover, the relative CSAs of these muscles were significantly correlated with indices of sprint velocity (r = .694, .612, and .630) and step frequency (r = .687, .740, and .590) but not with that of step length. Conclusions: These findings suggest that greater hip flexor and knee extensor muscularity in male preadolescent sprinters may help achieve superior sprint performance by potentially enhancing their moments, which may be induced by increased step frequency rather than step length during sprinting.