European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 335–342 | Cite as

Electrode position markedly affects knee torque in tetanic, stimulated contractions

  • Taian M. Vieira
  • Paolo Potenza
  • Laura Gastaldi
  • Alberto Botter
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to investigate how much the distance between stimulation electrodes affects the knee extension torque in tetanic, electrically elicited contractions.


Current pulses of progressively larger amplitude, from 0 mA to maximally tolerated intensities, were delivered at 20 pps to the vastus medialis, rectus femoris and vastus lateralis muscles of ten, healthy male subjects. Four inter-electrode distances were tested: 32.5 % (L1), 45.0 % (L2), 57.5 % (L3) and 70 % (L4) of the distance between the patella apex and the anterior superior iliac spine. The maximal knee extension torque and the current leading to the maximal torque were measured and compared between electrode configurations.


The maximal current tolerated by each participant ranged from 60 to 100 mA and did not depend on the inter-electrode distance. The maximal knee extension torque elicited did not differ between L3 and L4 (P = 0.15) but, for both conditions, knee torque was significantly greater than for L1 and L2 (P < 0.024). On average, the extension torque elicited for L3 and L4 was two to three times greater than that obtained for L1 and L2. The current leading to maximal torque was not as sensitive to inter-electrode distance. Except for L1 current intensity did not change with electrode configuration (P > 0.16).


Key results presented here revealed that for a given stimulation intensity, knee extension torque increased dramatically with the distance between electrodes. The distance between electrodes seems therefore to critically affect knee torque, with potential implication for optimising exercise protocols based on electrical stimulation.


Functional electrical stimulation Quadriceps muscle Electrode configuration Stimulation parameters 



Analysis of variance


Line defining the distance between the patella apex and the anterior superior iliac spine


Highest extension torque


Functional electrical stimulation


Highest current intensity


Rectus femoris


Vastus lateralis


Vastus medialis



This study was supported by Politecnico di Torino (student team Eng4Dis) and co-funded by Compagnia di San Paolo and Fondazione C.R.T.

Compliance with ethical standards


Politecnico di Torino (student team Eng4Dis), Compagnia di San Paolo and Fondazione C.R.T.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taian M. Vieira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paolo Potenza
    • 1
  • Laura Gastaldi
    • 3
  • Alberto Botter
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory for Engineering of the Neuromuscular System (LISiN), Dipartimento di Elettronica e TelecomunicazioniPolitecnico di TorinoTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Departamento de Arte Corporal, Escola de Educação Física e DesportosUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio De JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Ingegneria Meccanica e AerospazialePolitecnico di TorinoTorinoItaly

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