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Laurent Vigouroux, Mathieu Domalain and Eric Berton

The objective of this study was to identify the impact of modifying the object width on muscle and joint forces while gripping objects. The experimental protocol consisted to maintain horizontally five objects of different widths (3.5, 4.5, 5.5, 6.5, and 7.5 cm) with a thumb–index finger grip. Subjects were required to grasp spontaneously the object without any instruction regarding the grip force (GF) to apply. A biomechanical model of thumb–index finger pinch was developed to estimate muscle and joint forces. This model included electromyography, fingertip force, and kinematics data as inputs. The finger joint postures and the GF varied across the object widths. The estimated muscle forces also varied significantly according to the object width. Interestingly, we observed that the muscle force/GF ratios of major flexor muscles remain particularly stable with respect to the width whereas other muscle ratios differed largely. This may argue for a control strategy in which the actions of flexors were preserved in spite of change in joint postures. The estimated joint forces tended to increase with object width and increased in the distal–proximal sense. Overall, these results are of importance for the ergonomic design of handheld objects and for clinical applications.

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Jérémy Rossi, Benjamin Goislard De Monsabert, Eric Berton and Laurent Vigouroux

The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of handle shape on the grip force distribution in the hand and on the muscle forces during maximal power grip tasks. Eleven subjects maximally grasped 3 handles with different external shapes (circular, elliptic, and double-frustum). A handle dynamometer, equipped with both a force sensor and a pressure map, was used to record the forces exerted at the hand/handle interface. The finger and wrist joint postures were also computed from synchronized kinematic measurement. These processed data were then used as input of a biomechanical hand model to estimate muscle forces. The results showed that handle shape influences the maximal grip force, the grip force distribution, and the finger joint postures. Particularly, we observed that the elliptical shape resulted in a 6.6% lower maximal grip force compared with the circular and double-frustum handle. Concomitantly, the estimated muscle forces also varied significantly according to the handle shape, with up to 48% differences for the flexor digitorum superficialis muscle for example. Interestingly, different muscle coordination strategies were observed depending on the handle shape, therefore suggesting a potential influence of these geometrical characteristics on pathological risks such as tendonitis.

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Violaine Sevrez, Guillaume Rao, Eric Berton and Reinoud J. Bootsma

Five elite gymnasts performed giant circles on the high bar under different conditions of loading (without and with 6-kg loads attached to the shoulders, waist or ankles). Comparing the gymnasts’ kinematic pattern of movement with that of a triple-pendulum moving under the sole influence of nonmuscular forces revealed qualitative similarities, including the adoption of an arched position during the downswing and a piked position during the upswing. The structuring role of nonmuscular forces in the organization of movement was further reinforced by the results of an inverse dynamics analysis, assessing the contributions of gravitational, inertial and muscular components to the net joint torques. Adding loads at the level of the shoulders, waist or ankles systematically influenced movement kinematics and net joint torques. However, with the loads attached at the level of the shoulders or waist, the load-induced changes in gravitational and inertial torques provided the required increase in net joint torque, thereby allowing the muscular torques to remain unchanged. With the loads attached at the level of the ankles, this was no longer the case and the gymnasts increased the muscular torques at the shoulder and hip joints. Together, these results demonstrate that expert gymnasts skillfully exploit the operative nonmuscular forces, employing muscle force only in the capacity of complementary forces needed to perform the task.