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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Jan;102(2):233-42. Epub 2007 Oct 26.

Knee angle-dependent oxygen consumption of human quadriceps muscles during maximal voluntary and electrically evoked contractions.

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  • 1Research Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 9, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Fatigability and muscle oxygen consumption (mVO(2)) during sustained voluntary isometric knee extensions are less at extended (30 degrees knee angle; 0 degrees , full extension) versus flexed knee angles (90 degrees). This lower energy consumption may partially result from lower neural activation at extended knee angles. We hypothesized a smaller difference in mVO(2) between extended and flexed knee angles during electrical stimulation, which guaranteed maximal activation, than during maximal voluntary contractions (MVC). In eight healthy young males, MVC extension torque was obtained at 30 degrees, 60 degrees and 90 degrees knee angles. mVO(2) of the rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis (VL) and medialis muscle was measured using near-infrared spectroscopy during tetanic (10 s) and maximal voluntary (15 s) contractions (MVC(15)). For electrically induced contractions, steady state mVO(2) was reached at similar (P > 0.05) times after torque onset (4.6 +/- 0.7 s) at all knee angles. In contrast, during MVC(15) at 30 degrees mVO(2) was reached at 7.1 +/- 1.1 s, significantly later compared to 60 degrees and 90 degrees knee angles. The knee angle dependent differences in mVO(2) were not lower in electrically induced contractions (as hypothesised) but were similar as in voluntary contractions. Normalized mVO(2) at 30 degrees (percentage 90 degrees knee angle) was 79.0 +/- 9.4% (across muscles) for electrically induced and 79.5 +/- 7.6% (across muscles) for voluntary contractions (P < 0.05). We conclude that the slower onset of mVO(2) during voluntary effort at 30 degrees may have been due to a lower maximal activation. However, because steady state mVO(2) both during electrically induced and voluntary contractions was approximately 20% less at extended versus flexed knee angles, the causes for the lower mVO(2) must reside within the muscle itself.

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