Relationship between myoelectric and mechanical manifestations of fatigue in the quadriceps femoris muscle group

  • Anne F. Mannion
  • P. Dolan
  • A. F. Mannion
  • P. Dolan
Original Article


Fatigue is commonly defined as “the failure to maintain the required force”. As such, it may be argued that the use of electromyographic (EMG) power spectral statistics to monitor muscle fatigue is inappropriate, because, during the maintenance of a submaximal force of contraction, EMG changes are readily observable in the absence of any decline in the muscle's mechanical output. However, it is possible that the EMG changes reflect the changing metabolic status of the muscle and hence its inability to generate its normal maximal force. The present study sought to examine whether the decline in EMG median frequency, which occurs during the maintenance of a submaximal force, is correlated with a reduction in the muscle's maximum force-generating capacity. The maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the knee extensors in ten young, healthy subjects was determined. On five separate occasions, randomly assigned forces of 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60% MVC were held to the limit of endurance. At intervals throughout the sustained contractions, subjects were required to rapidly generate an MVC for 1–2 s, then return to the fixed submaxial target force. Surface EMG signals were recorded throughout the contractions from the rectus lemons and vastus lateralis muscles, from which the power spectrum median frequency was calculated. Regression analysis revealed highly significant relationships between the rate of decline in MF and the rate of decline in MVC, and between each of these parameters and endurance time to fatigue (P = 0.0001, in each case). It is concluded that the decline in MF can be used to monitor fatigue, where fatigue is defined as the inability to generate the maximum force that can be produced by the muscle in its fresh state.

Key words

Electromyography Power spectrum Median frequency Muscle force Muscle fatigue 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne F. Mannion
    • 1
  • P. Dolan
    • 1
  • A. F. Mannion
    • 1
  • P. Dolan
    • 1
  1. 1.Comparative Orthopaedic Research Unit, Department of Anatomy, School of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of BristolBristolSouthwell St.UK

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