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Anatomical and neuromuscular variables strongly predict maximum knee extension torque in healthy men

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This study examined the relative influence of anatomical and neuromuscular variables on maximal isometric and concentric knee extensor torque and provided a comparative dataset for healthy young males.


Quadriceps cross-sectional area (CSA) and fascicle length (l f) and angle (θ f) from the four quadriceps components; agonist (EMG:M) and antagonist muscle activity, and percent voluntary activation (%VA); patellar tendon moment arm distance (MA) and maximal voluntary isometric and concentric (60° s−1) torques, were measured in 56 men. Linear regression models predicting maximum torque were ranked using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AICc), and Pearson’s correlation coefficients assessed relationships between variables.


The best-fit models explained up to 72 % of the variance in maximal voluntary knee extension torque. The combination of ‘CSA + θ f + EMG:M + %VA’ best predicted maximum isometric torque (R 2 = 72 %, AICc weight = 0.38) and ‘CSA + θ f + MA’ (R 2 = 65 %, AICc weight = 0.21) best predicted maximum concentric torque.


Proximal quadriceps CSA was included in all models rather than the traditionally used mid-muscle CSA. Fascicle angle appeared consistently in all models despite its weak correlation with maximum torque in isolation, emphasising the importance of examining interactions among variables. While muscle activity was important for torque prediction in both contraction modes, MA only strongly influenced maximal concentric torque. These models identify the main sources of inter-individual differences strongly influencing maximal knee extension torque production in healthy men. The comparative dataset allows the identification of potential variables to target (i.e. weaknesses) in individuals.

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Akaike’s information criterion (an information-theoretic approach for model selection)

AICc :

Akaike’s information criterion for a small dataset


The model's AICc minus the minimum AICc among candidate models

AICc w i :

The percentage of times that a given model would be selected as the ‘best-fit model’ by AICc, and serves as the weight of evidence for a given model being the best model from a set of candidate models


Biceps femoris


Confidence interval


Anatomical cross-sectional area


Coefficients of variation


Distal region muscle measurements




Quadriceps EMG amplitude normalised to M-wave amplitude


RF EMG amplitude normalised to RF M-wave amplitude


VL EMG amplitude normalised to VL M-wave amplitude


VM EMG amplitude normalised to VM M-wave amplitude


Average EMG:M ratio of RF, VL and VM


Instantaneous centre of rotation


Intra-class correlation coefficient

l f :

Fascicle length


Patellar tendon moment arm distance

Mmax :

Maximum peak-to-peak amplitude of the M-wave


Maximal voluntary contraction


Middle region muscle measurements


Maximum muscle compound action potential of vastus lateralis


Physiological cross-sectional area


Proximal region muscle measurements


Rectus femoris


Root mean square


Range of motion


Maximum voluntary concentric torque


Maximum quadriceps-only concentric torque


Maximum voluntary isometric torque


Maximum quadriceps-only isometric torque

T Pot-TW :

Maximum potentiated twitch torque

T Un-TW :

Maximum unpotentiated twitch torque


Percent voluntary activation (calculated by interpolated twitch technique)


Vastus intermedius


Vastus lateralis


Vastus medialis

θ f :

Fascicle angle


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Funding was provided through the Edith Cowan University post-graduate research scholarship system.

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Communicated by William J. Kraemer.

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Trezise, J., Collier, N. & Blazevich, A.J. Anatomical and neuromuscular variables strongly predict maximum knee extension torque in healthy men. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 1159–1177 (2016).

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