, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 195-204

The contribution of muscle properties in the control of explosive movements

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Abstract

Explosive movements such as throwing, kicking, and jumping are characterized by high velocity and short movement time. Due to the fact that latencies of neural feedback loops are long in comparison to movement times, correction of deviations cannot be achieved on the basis of neural feedback. In other words, the control signals must be largely preprogrammed. Furthermore, in many explosive movements the skeletal system is mechanically analogous to an inverted pendulum; in such a system, disturbances tend to be amplified as time proceeds. It is difficult to understand how an inverted-pendulum-like system can be controlled on the basis of some form of open loop control (albeit during a finite period of time only). To investigate if actuator properties, specifically the force-length-velocity relationship of muscle, reduce the control problem associated with explosive movement tasks such as human vertical jumping, a direct dynamics modeling and simulation approach was adopted. In order to identify the role of muscle properties, two types of open loop control signals were applied: STIM(t), representing the stimulation of muscles, and MOM(t), representing net joint moments. In case of STIM control, muscle properties influence the joint moments exerted on the skeleton; in case of MOM control, these moments are directly prescribed. By applying perturbations and comparing the deviations from a reference movement for both types of control, the reduction of the effect of disturbances due to muscle properties was calculated. It was found that the system is very sensitive to perturbations in case of MOM control; the sensitivity to perturbations is markedly less in case of STIM control. It was concluded that muscle properties constitute a peripheral feedback system that has the advantage of zero time delay. This feedback system reduces the effect of perturbations during human vertical jumping to such a degree that when perturbations are not too large, the task may be performed successfully without any adaptation of the muscle stimulation pattern.