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During Slow Wrist Movements, Distance Covered Affects EMG at a Given External Force

Tom G. Welter and Maarten F. Bobbert

This study investigates the hypothesis that EMG measured from a muscle at a given force, length, and low-shortening velocity depends on the contraction history, specifically the distance over which the muscle has shortened. Slow linear horizontal wrist movements (3 cm/s) involving shoulder and elbow rotations towards a test position of 90° elbow flexion were performed. REMG was measured at the test position after wrist displacements over 6.5 and 13 cm. Muscle contraction speed was below 1% of maximum. A constant force (25 N) causing flexion torque in the elbow was exerted by the wrist. Inertial load was minimal. Two main elbow flexors (biceps caput longum and breve) showed significantly higher (14 and 24%) concentric REMG after 13-cm wrist movement than alter 6.5-cm. Eccentric EMG did not differ between the 6.5-and 13-cm conditions. It is concluded that adaptation of muscle activation is required to counteract the effects of contraction history on the force producing capacity of the muscle.

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Initial Muscle Activity in Planar Ballistic Arm Movements with Varying External Force Directions

Tom G. Welter and Maarten F. Bobbert

We have investigated, in fast movements, the hypothesis that bi-articular muscles are preferentially selected to control me direction of force exerted on the environment, while mono-articular muscles are selected to control both this exerted force direction as well as the movement direction. Fourteen subjects performed ballistic arm movements involving shoulder and elbow rotations in the horizontal plane, either with or without an external force applied at the wrist. Joint torques required to counteract the external force were in the same order of magnitude as those required to overcome the inertial load during movements. EMG was recorded from mono- and bi-articular flexors and extensors of me elbow and shoulder. Signals were rectified and integrated (IREMG) over 100 ms following the first detected activity. MANOVA revealed mat, contrary to the hypothesis, IREMG of bi-articular muscles varied with movement direction just as that of the mono-articular muscles. It was concluded that the present data do not support me hypothesis mentioned above. A second finding was that movement effects on IREMG were much stronger than external force effects. This could not be explained using Hill's force-velocity relationship. It may be an indication that in the initiation of fast movements, IREMG is not only tuned to movement dynamics and muscle contractile properties, but also to me dynamics of the build up of an active state of the muscle.

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Initial Arm Muscle Activation in a Planar Ballistic Arm Movement with Varying External Force Directions: A Simulation Study

Tom G. Welter and Maarten F. Bobbert

It has been shown in previous research that the initial phase of EMG for a punching movement remained almost unchanged regardless of whether an external force was applied to the arm. The purpose of the present study was to explain this finding with the help of simulations. A two-dimensional model of me arm actuated by 6 Hill-type muscles was used to simulate a punching movement in the horizontal plane from a prescribed starting position with 90° elbow flexion. Input to the model was the stimulation of me muscles, and output were, among others, muscle forces and segmental accelerations. A genetic algorithm was used to determine the muscle onset times mat minimized movement duration and targeting error. In a subsequent forward simulation, the optimized muscle onset times for an unloaded punching movement were superimposed on the isometric stimulation necessary to hold me arm in the starting position while an external force was applied to the arm. The resulting movement was only slightly different from the unloaded movement. It appeared that because of the low level of isometric muscle force prior to the movement, and the high level of stimulation during the movement, muscle force was increased at a rate mat was almost independent of the prior force level. These results confirmed the suggestion that the initial phase of EMG in ballistic movements is more related to the rate of change of force than to the absolute force level. It is hypothesized mat this may simplify the task of the nervous system in the choice of initial muscle activity in ballistic arm movements because no adjustments to varying external forces are required.

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Two-Joint Muscles Offer the Solution, but What Was the Problem?

Maarten F. Bobbert and A.J. “Knoek” van Soest

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.

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Dynamics of the In-Run in Ski Jumping: A Simulation Study

Gertjan J.C. Ettema, Steinar Bråten, and Maarten F. Bobbert

A ski jumper tries to maintain an aerodynamic position in the in-run during changing environmental forces. The purpose of this study was to analyze the mechanical demands on a ski jumper taking the in-run in a static position. We simulated the in-run in ski jumping with a 4-segment forward dynamic model (foot, leg, thigh, and upper body). The curved path of the in-run was used as kinematic constraint, and drag, lift, and snow friction were incorporated. Drag and snow friction created a forward rotating moment that had to be counteracted by a plantar flexion moment and caused the line of action of the normal force to pass anteriorly to the center of mass continuously. The normal force increased from 0.88G on the first straight to 1.65G in the curve. The required knee joint moment increased more because of an altered center of pressure. During the transition from the straight to the curve there was a rapid forward shift of the center of pressure under the foot, reflecting a short but high angular acceleration. Because unrealistically high rates of change of moment are required, an athlete cannot do this without changing body configuration which reduces the required rate of moment changes.

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Does Elastic Energy Enhance Work and Efficiency in the Stretch-Shortening Cycle?

Gerrit Jan van Ingen Schenau, Maarten F. Bobbert, and Arnold de Haan

This target article addresses the role of storage and reutilization of elastic energy in stretch-shortening cycles. It is argued that for discrete movements such as the vertical jump, elastic energy does not explain the work enhancement due to the prestretch. This enhancement seems to occur because the prestretch allows muscles to develop a high level of active state and force before starting to shorten. For cyclic movements in which stretch-shortening cycles occur repetitively, some authors have claimed that elastic energy enhances mechanical efficiency. In the current article it is demonstrated that this claim is often based on disputable concepts such as the efficiency of positive work or absolute work, and it is argued that elastic energy cannot affect mechanical efficiency simply because this energy is not related to the conversion of metabolic energy into mechanical energy. A comparison of work and efficiency measures obtained at different levels of organization reveals that there is in fact no decisive evidence to either support or reject the claim that the stretch-shortening cycle enhances muscle efficiency. These explorations lead to the conclusion that the body of knowledge about the mechanics and energetics of the stretch-shortening cycle is in fact quite lean. A major challenge is to bridge the gap between knowledge obtained at different levels of organization, with the ultimate purpose of understanding how the intrinsic properties of muscles manifest themselves under in-vivo-like conditions and how they are exploited in whole-body activities such as running. To achieve this purpose, a close cooperation is required between muscle physiologists and human movement scientists performing inverse and forward dynamic simulation studies of whole-body exercises.

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Acute Effects of Walking Exercise on Stair Negotiation in Sedentary and Physically Active Older Adults

Marcos R. Kunzler, Emmanuel S. da Rocha, Maarten F. Bobbert, Jacques Duysens, and Felipe P. Carpes


In negotiating stairs, low foot clearance increases the risk of tripping and a fall. Foot clearance may be related to physical fitness, which differs between active and sedentary participants, and be acutely affected by exercise. Impaired stair negotiation could be an acute response to exercise. Here we determined acute changes in foot clearances during stair walking in sedentary (n = 15) and physically active older adults (n = 15) after prolonged exercise.


Kinematic data were acquired during negotiation with a 3-steps staircase while participants walked at preferred speed, before and after 30 min walking at preferred speed and using a treadmill. Foot clearances were compared before and after exercise and between the groups.


Sedentary older adults presented larger (0.5 cm for lead and 2 cm for trail leg) toe clearances in ascent, smaller (0.7 cm) heel clearance in the leading foot in descent, and larger (1 cm) heel clearance in the trailing foot in descent than physically active.


Sedentary older adults negotiate stairs in a slightly different way than active older adults, and 30 min walking at preferred speed does not affect clearance in stair negotiation.

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Mechanics and Energetics of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle: A Stimulating Discussion

Gerrit Jan van Ingen Schenau, Maarten F. Bobbert, and Arnold de Haan

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The Isometric Knee Extension Moment-Angle Relationship: Experimental Data and Predictions Based on Cadaver Data

Kenneth Meijer, Peter Bosch, Maarten F. Bobbert, Arthur J. van Soest, and Peter A. Huijing

The influence of parameter values (i.e., fiber optimum lengths and moment arms) and simplification of the geometry of a Hill-type muscle model on the prediction of normalized maximal isometric knee extension moment to knee joint angle relationship was studied. For that purpose, the geometry of m. quadriceps femoris was modeled in considerable detail, and all parameter values were determined on one set of cadaver specimens that had been selected for muscular appearance. The predicted relationship was compared to that measured in human subjects over the full range of physiological knee angles, and a good correspondence was found (r = .96). The good correspondence could be attributed to the substitution of realistic parameter values into the model. Incorporating complex muscle geometry into the model resulted in a small additional improvement of the prediction. It was speculated that the variation in results of cadaver measurements among studies reflects true differences caused by individuals' levels of physical activity in the period preceding death.

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From a One-Legged Vertical Jump to the Speed-Skating Push-off: A Simulation Study

Maarten F. Bobbert, Han Houdijk, Jos J. de Koning, and Gert de Groot

To gain a better understanding of push-off mechanics in speed skating, forward simulations were performed with a model comprising four body segments and six muscles. We started with a simulated maximum height one-legged jump, obtained by optimization of muscle stimulation time histories. The simulated jump was very similar to one-legged jumps produced by a human, indicating that the model was realistic. We subsequently studied how performance was affected by introducing four conditions characteristic of speed skating: (a) We changed the initial position from that in jumping to that at the start of the push-off phase in skating. This change was accommodated by a delay in stimulation onset of the plantar flexors in the optimal solution. (b) The friction between foot and ground was reduced to zero. As a result, maximum jump height decreased by 1.2 cm and performance became more sensitive to errors in muscle stimulation. The reason is that without surface friction, the foot had to be prevented from slipping away, which constrained the solution space and reduced the tolerance to errors in stimulation. (c) We introduced the requirement to maintain the upper body in a more or less horizontal position. This change could be accommodated by a delay in stimulation onset of the hamstrings, which inevitably caused a reduction in maximum jump height by 11.6 cm. (d) We increased the effective foot length from 16.5 cm, representative of jumping, to 20.5 cm, representative of skating with klapskates. At the 20.5-cm foot length, rotation of the foot did not start during the buildup of plantar flexion moment as it did at smaller foot lengths, but was delayed until hip and knee extension moments decreased. This caused an unbalanced increase in segment angular velocities and muscle shortening velocities, leading to a decrease in muscle force and muscle work and a further decrease in maximum jump height by approximately 5 cm. Qualitatively, these findings help clarify why and how performance of speed skaters depends on the location of the hinge of their skate.