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J Biomech. 2004 Nov;37(11):1689-97.

Angle- and gender-specific quadriceps femoris muscle recruitment and knee extensor torque.

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  • 1Human Performance and Fatigue Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, The University of Toledo, Mail Stop 201, Toledo, OH 43606, USA.


The objectives were to examine knee angle-, and gender-specific knee extensor torque output and quadriceps femoris (QF) muscle recruitment during maximal effort, voluntary contractions. Fourteen young adult men and 15 young adult women performed three isometric maximal voluntary contractions (MVC), in a random order, with the knee at 0 degrees (terminal extension), 10 degrees, 30 degrees, 50 degrees, 70 degrees, and 90 degrees flexion. Knee extensor peak torque (PT), and average torque (AT) were expressed in absolute (N m), relative (N m kg(-1)) and allometric-modeled (N m kg(-n)) units. Vastus medialis (VM), vastus lateralis (VL), and rectus femoris (RF) muscle EMG signals were full-wave rectified and integrated over the middle 3 s of each contraction, averaged over the three trials at each knee angle, and normalized to the activity recorded at 0 degrees. Muscle recruitment efficiency was calculated as the ratio of the normalized EMG of each muscle to the allometric-modeled average torque (normalized to the values at 0 degrees flexion), and expressed as a percent. Men generated significantly greater knee extensor PT and AT than women in absolute, relative and allometric-modeled units. Absolute and relative PT and AT were significantly highest at 70 degrees, while allometric-modeled values were observed to increase significantly across knee joint angles 10-90 degrees. VM EMG was significantly greater than the VL and RF muscles across all angles, and followed a similar pattern to absolute knee extensor torque. Recruitment efficiency improved across knee joint angles 10-90 degrees and was highest for the VL muscle. VM recruitment efficiency improved more than the VL and RF muscles across 70-90 degrees flexion. The findings demonstrate angle-, and gender-specific responses of knee extensor torque to maximal-effort contractions, while superficial QF muscle recruitment was most efficient at 90 degrees, and less dependent on gender.

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