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Alternate Muscle Activity Observed Between Knee Extensor Synergists During Low-level Sustained Contractions

Motoki Kouzaki, Minoru Shinohara, Kei Masani, Hiroaki Kanehisa, Tetsuo Fukunaga

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To determine quantitatively the features of alternate muscle activity between knee extensor synergists during low-level prolonged contraction, a surface electromyogram (EMG) was recorded from the rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis (VL), and vastus medialis (VM) in 11 subjects during isometric knee extension exercise at 2.5% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) for 60 min ( experiment 1). Furthermore, to examine the relation between alternate muscle activity and contraction levels, six of the subjects also performed sustained knee extension at 5.0, 7.5, and 10.0% of MVC ( experiment 2). Alternate muscle activity among the three muscles was assessed by quantitative analysis on the basis of the rate of integrated EMG sequences. In experiment 1, the number of alternations was significantly higher between RF and either VL or VM than between VL and VM. Moreover, the frequency of alternate muscle activity increased with time. In experiment 2, alternating muscle activity was found during contractions at 2.5 and 5.0% of MVC, although not at 7.5 and 10.0% of MVC, and the number of alternations was higher at 2.5 than at 5.0% of MVC. Thus the findings of the present study demonstrated that alternate muscle activity in the quadriceps muscle 1) appears only between biarticular RF muscle and monoarticular vasti muscles (VL and VM), and its frequency of alternations progressively increases with time, and 2) emerges under sustained contraction with force production levels ≤5.0% of MVC.