Postural muscle activity during bilateral and unilateral arm movements at different speeds

Exp Brain Res. 2004 Apr;155(3):352-61. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1732-x. Epub 2003 Dec 6.


The muscle activation patterns in anterior and posterior leg muscles were investigated with two types of perturbations to standing balance. Subjects stood with each foot on adjacent force platforms and performed arm flexion movements to shoulder height. Nine subjects performed ten repetitions unilaterally and bilaterally at 100, 75, 50, 25, and 12.5% of maximal acceleration as measured by an accelerometer placed on the dominant hand. Four subjects also performed the fastest movements while leaning forwards and backwards. The area and latency of the EMG activity from the quadriceps (QUAD), hamstrings (BF), soleus (SOL), and tibialis anterior (TA) were measured bilaterally, along with the excursions of the center of pressure (COP) during each movement. In both unilateral and bilateral tasks, subjects showed a scaling of EMG area and COP excursion with the acceleration of the arm movement. Prior to movement onset, significant scaling of EMG area with movement speed occurred in both unilateral and bilateral tasks in most muscles. Following movement onset, EMG areas scaled significantly to movement speed in only the anterior musculature, with the exception of the left BF. The latency of BF was consistent for the four fastest movements. Only the slowest movements resulted in a significant rightward shift of the BF EMG latency. During the unilateral task, the ipsilateral hamstrings were activated significantly earlier than in the bilateral task and the contralateral hamstrings were activated significantly later. It was also observed that subjects utilized one of two different strategies to maintain balance. Five individuals displayed simultaneous anterior/posterior muscle activation while the other four displayed a reciprocal pattern of activation. Regardless of the initial standing position (leaning forwards or backwards), subjects used the same simultaneous or reciprocal activation strategy. The results indicate that muscle activation patterns change with different tasks, but remain the same during variations of the same task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*