Antagonist muscle coactivation during isokinetic knee extension

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2000 Apr;10(2):58-67. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0838.2000.010002058.x.


The aim of the present study was to quantify the amount of antagonist coactivation and the resultant moment of force generated by the hamstring muscles during maximal quadriceps contraction in slow isokinetic knee extension. The net joint moment at the knee joint and electromyographic (EMG) signals of the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, rectus femoris muscles (quadriceps) and the biceps femoris caput longum and semitendinosus muscles (hamstrings) were obtained in 16 male subjects during maximal isokinetic knee joint extension (KinCom, ROM 90-10 degrees, 30 degrees x s(-1)). Two types of extension were performed: [1] maximal concentric quadriceps contractions and [2] maximal eccentric hamstring contractions Hamstring antagonist EMG in [1] were converted into antagonist moment based on the EMG-moment relationships determined in [2] and vice versa. Since antagonist muscle coactivation was present in both [1] and [2] a set of related equations was constructed to yield the moment/EMG relationships for the hamstring and quadriceps muscles, respectively. The equations were solved separately for every 0.05 degrees knee joint angle in the 90-10 degrees range of excursion (0 degrees = full extension) ensuring that the specificity of muscle length and internal muscle lever arms were incorporated into the moment/EMG relationships established. Substantial hamstring coactivation was observed during quadriceps agonist contraction. This resulted in a constant level of antagonist hamstring moment of about 30 Nm throughout the range of motion. In the range of 30-10 degrees from full knee extension this antagonist hamstring moment corresponded to 30-75% of the measured knee extensor moment. The level of antagonist coactivation was 3-fold higher for the lateral (Bfcl) compared to medial (ST) hamstring muscles The amount of EMG crosstalk between agonist-antagonist muscle pairs was negligible (Rxy2<0.02-0.06). The present data show that substantial antagonist coactivation of the hamstring muscles may be present during slow isokinetic knee extension. In consequence substantial antagonist flexor moments are generated. The antagonist hamstring moments potentially counteract the anterior tibial shear and excessive internal tibial rotation induced by the contractile forces of the quadriceps near full knee extension. In doing so the hamstring coactivation is suggested to assist the mechanical and neurosensory functions of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / innervation
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology
  • Tibia / physiology