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Gait Posture. 2011 Feb;33(2):244-50. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.11.013. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Comparison of elliptical training, stationary cycling, treadmill walking and overground walking. Electromyographic patterns.

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Functional and Applied Biomechanics Section, Rehabilitation Medicine Department, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, MD 20892, United States.


The most common functional motor goal of lower extremity rehabilitation is to improve walking ability. For reasons of feasibility, safety or intensity, devices are frequently used to facilitate or augment gait training. The objective of this study was to compare the muscle activity patterns of the rectus femoris and semitendinosus muscles during four conditions: overground walking, treadmill walking, stationary cycling, and elliptical training. Ten healthy adults (six male, four female; mean age 22.7±2.9 years, range 20-29) participated and surface electromyographic data were recorded. Linear envelope curves were generated and time normalized from 0 to 100% cycle. The mean plus three standard deviations from a static trial was used as the threshold for muscle activity. Repeated measures analysis of variance procedures were used to detect differences between conditions. Elliptical training demonstrated greater rectus femoris activity and greater rectus femoris/semitendinosus coactivation than all other conditions. Consistent with previous work, treadmill walking demonstrated greater rectus femoris activity than overground walking. Minimal differences in semitendinosus activation were observed between conditions, limited to lower peak activity during cycling compared to treadmill walking. These results provide normative values for rectus femoris and semitendinosus activation for different locomotor training methods and may assist in selecting the most appropriate training device for specific patients. Clinicians and researchers should also consider the kinematic and kinetic differences between tasks, which cannot necessarily be inferred from muscle activation patterns.

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