Moment distribution among human elbow extensor muscles during isometric and submaximal extension

J Biomech. 2000 Feb;33(2):145-54. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(99)00157-8.


To understand better how the central nervous system (CNS) distributes a joint moment among muscles, moment distribution among the three heads of the triceps and the anconeus muscles during isometric elbow extension was quantified in vivo and noninvasively. Electrical stimulation was used to activate an individual muscle selectively at various contraction levels, and the relationship between the peak M-wave amplitude and peak elbow extension moment was established across various contraction levels for each muscle. The relationship was then used to calibrate the corresponding EMG signal and determine moment distribution among the muscles during voluntary isometric elbow extension. Results showed that moment distribution among muscles was not proportional to the muscles' physiological cross-sectional areas (PCSA) and the CNS favored uniarticular muscles for the isometric task performed: the uniarticular lateral and medial heads of the triceps were dominant (contributing approximately 70-90% of the total elbow extension moment) and the anconeus contributed significantly, especially at the lower levels of elbow extension moment (up to approximately 15% of the extension moment). In contrast, the two-joint long head of the triceps contributed significantly less than the uniarticular heads of the triceps. While the absolute contributions of all the muscles increased with the total elbow extension moment, the relative contributions of the muscles may increase or decrease with the elbow extension moment. Cross-validation using fresh data (not used in determining the moment distribution) showed close match between the measured and predicted elbow extension moment except for trials in which fatigue became significant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Elbow / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Torque