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J Biomech. 2010 Jan 19;43(2):364-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.06.058. Epub 2009 Oct 17.

The need for muscle co-contraction prior to a landing.

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School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK.


In landings from a flight phase the mass centre of an athlete experiences rapid decelerations. This study investigated the extent to which co-contraction is beneficial or necessary in drop landings, using both experimental data and computer simulations. High speed video and force recordings were made of an elite martial artist performing drop landings onto a force plate from heights of 1.2, 1.5 and 1.8m. Matching simulations of these landings were produced using a planar 8-segment torque-driven subject-specific computer simulation model. It was found that there was substantial co-activation of joint flexor and extensor torques at touchdown in all three landings. Optimisations were carried out to determine whether landings could be effected without any co-contraction at touchdown. The model was not capable of landing from higher than 1.05m with no initial flexor or extensor activations. Due to the force-velocity properties of muscle, co-contraction with net zero joint torque at touchdown leads to increased extensor torque and decreased flexor torque as joint flexion velocity increases. The same considerations apply in any activity where rapid changes in net joint torque are required, as for example in jumps from a running approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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