Elmer, S. J., Peterson, M. D., & Marshall, C. S. (2014). Muscle coordination during submaximal and maximal arm cycling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(5), Supplement abstract number 2491.

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This study evaluated muscle activation patterns during submaximal and maximal arm-cycling exercise in eight Ss. Ss performed submaximal arm-cycling at 40 and 120W (1minute, 80 rpm) and maximal arm-cycling (~5 seconds, 80 rpm). Muscle-activity was recorded from surface EMG on 12 muscles (elbow flexors and extensors, shoulder flexor and extensors, trunk muscles, and leg muscles) with respect to crank angle.

Compared to submaximal arm-cycling, maximal arm-cycling induced a large increase in peak EMG activity for elbow flexors and extensors and shoulder flexors and extensors. Trunk and leg muscles demonstrated a very large increase in EMG activity. During maximal arm-cycling, peak EMG activity was close to maximum for elbow flexors and extensors, and select shoulder extensors (>70% of peak EMG activity during isolated maximal isometric contraction) whereas all other muscles were not maximally activated (<70% peak EMG activity during isolated maximal isometric contraction). Results also generally indicated a shift in coordination patterns when the transition from submaximal to maximal arm-cycling with most muscles exhibiting an earlier onset and later offset during the pedal cycle.

Implication. There were distinct differences in muscle coordination patterns between submaximal arm-cycling and maximal arm-cycling. Most notably, maximal arm-cycling recruited trunk (rectus abdominis, external oblique) and the leg (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis) muscles whereas these muscles were used very little during submaximal cycling. Further, the early onset and later offset are likely due to muscles accounting for activation dynamics associated with longer muscle-force production. Together, recruitment of additional musculature along with prolonged muscle activation likely represents an important strategy to maximize power production.

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