, Volume 174, Issue 4, pp 595-603
Date: 18 May 2006

Synergists activation pattern of the quadriceps muscle differs when performing sustained isometric contractions with different EMG biofeedback

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The aims of the present study were to examine (1) endurance time and (2) activation pattern of vastus lateralis (VL), vastus medialis (VM) and rectus femoris (RF) muscles during fatiguing isometric knee extensions performed with different EMG biofeedbacks. Thirteen men (27 ± 5 year) volunteered to participate in three experimental sessions. Each session involved a submaximal isometric contraction held until failure at an EMG level corresponding to 40% maximal voluntary contraction torque (MVC), with visual EMG biofeedback provided for either (1) RF muscle (RF task), (2) VL and VM muscles (Vasti task) or (3) the sum of the VL, VM and RF muscles (Quadriceps task). EMG activity of VL, VM and RF muscles was recorded during each of the three tasks and further analyzed. Time to task failures and MVC loss (P < 0.001) after exercises were similar (P > 0.05) between the three sessions (182 s and ∼28%, respectively) (P > 0.05). Moreover, the magnitude of central and peripheral fatigue was not different at failure of the three tasks. Activation pattern was similar for knee extensors at the beginning of each task (P > 0.05). However, RF EMG activity decreased (P < 0.05) during the Vasti and the Quadriceps tasks (from ∼33 to ∼25% maximal EMG), whereas vasti EMG activity remained constant during the RF task (∼41% maximal EMG). These findings suggest that (1) task failure occurs when sustaining a submaximal level of EMG activity for as long as possible and (2) CNS is not able to differentiate descending drive to the different heads of the quadriceps at the beginning of a sustained contraction, despite a different activation pattern for the bi-articular RF muscle compared to the mono-articular vasti muscles during fatigue.