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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2009 Jun;19(3):449-58. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Agonist muscle activity and antagonist muscle co-activity levels during standardized isotonic and isokinetic knee extensions.

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Université de Nantes, Nantes Atlantique Universités, Laboratoire Motricité, Interactions, Performance, JE 2438, UFR STAPS 25 bis Bd Guy Mollet - BP 72206, 44 322 Nantes Cedex 3, France.


This study aimed to analyze the effects of the contraction mode (isotonic vs. isokinetic concentric conditions), the joint angle and the investigated muscle on agonist muscle activity and antagonist muscle co-activity during standardized knee extensions. Twelve healthy adult subjects performed three sets of isotonic knee extensions at 40% of their maximal voluntary isometric torque followed by three sets of maximal isokinetic knee extensions on an isokinetic dynamometer. For each set, the mean angular velocity and the total external amount of work performed were standardized during the two contraction modes. Surface electromyographic activity of vastus lateralis (VL), vastus medialis (VM), rectus femoris (RF), semitendinosus (ST) and biceps femoris (BF) muscles was recorded. Root mean square values were then calculated for each 10 degrees between 85 degrees and 45 degrees of knee extension (0 degrees =horizontal position). Results show that agonist muscle activity and antagonist muscle co-activity levels are significantly greater in isotonic mode compared to isokinetic mode. Quadriceps activity and hamstrings co-activity are significantly lower at knee extended position in both contraction modes. Considering agonist muscles, VL reveals a specific pattern of activity compared to VM and RF; whereas considering hamstring muscles, BF shows a significantly higher co-activity than ST in both contraction modes. Results of this study confirmed our hypothesis that higher quadriceps activity is required during isotonic movements compared to isokinetic movements leading to a higher hamstrings co-activity.

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