This study investigated the influence of cycle frequency and workload on muscle coordination and the ensuing relationship with mechanical efficiency and power output of human limb movement. Eleven trained cyclists completed an array of cycle frequency (cadence)-power output conditions while excitation from 10 leg muscles and power output were recorded. Mechanical efficiency was maximized at increasing cadences for increasing power outputs and corresponded to muscle coordination and muscle fiber type recruitment that minimized both the total muscle excitation across all muscles and the ineffective pedal forces. Also, maximum efficiency was characterized by muscle coordination at the top and bottom of the pedal cycle and progressive excitation through the uniarticulate knee, hip, and ankle muscles. Inefficiencies were characterized by excessive excitation of biarticulate muscles and larger duty cycles. Power output and efficiency were limited by the duration of muscle excitation beyond a critical cadence (120–140 rpm), with larger duty cycles and disproportionate increases in muscle excitation suggesting deteriorating muscle coordination and limitations of the activation-deactivation capabilities. Most muscles displayed systematic phase shifts of the muscle excitation relative to the pedal cycle that were dependent on cadence and, to a lesser extent, power output. Phase shifts were different for each muscle, thereby altering their mechanical contribution to the pedaling action. This study shows that muscle coordination is a key determinant of mechanical efficiency and power output of limb movement across a wide range of mechanical demands and that the excitation and coordination of the muscles is limited at very high cycle frequencies.
- power output
- motor control
- Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society
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