Muscle force redistributes segmental power for body progression during walking

Gait Posture. 2004 Apr;19(2):194-205. doi: 10.1016/S0966-6362(03)00062-6.


The ankle plantar flexors were previously shown to support the body in single-leg stance to ensure its forward progression [J. Biomech. 34 (2001) 1387]. The uni- (SOL) and biarticular (GAS) plantar flexors accelerated the trunk and leg forward, respectively, with each opposing the effect of the other. Around mid-stance their net effect on the trunk and the leg was negligible, consistent with the body acting as an inverted pendulum. In late stance, their net effect was to accelerate the leg and trunk forward, consistent with an active push-off. Because other muscles are active in the beginning and end of stance, we hypothesized that their active concentric and eccentric force generation also supports the body and redistributes segmental power to enable body forward progression. Muscle-actuated forward dynamical simulations that emulated observed walking kinematics and kinetics of young adult subjects were analyzed to quantify muscle contributions to the vertical and horizontal ground reaction force, and to the acceleration and mechanical power of the leg and trunk. The eccentric uniarticular knee extensors (vasti, VAS) and concentric uniarticular hip extensors (gluteus maximus, GMAX) were found to provide critical support to the body in the beginning of stance, before the plantar flexors became active. VAS also decelerated the forward motion of both the trunk and the leg. Afterwards when VAS shortens in mid-stance, it delivered the power produced to accelerate the trunk and also redistributed segmental power to the trunk by continuing to decelerate the leg. When present, rectus femoris (RF) activity in the beginning of stance had a minimal effect. But in late stance the lengthening RF accelerated the knee and hip into extension, which opposed swing initiation. Though RF was lengthening, it still accelerated the trunk forward by decelerating the leg and redistributing the leg segmental power to the trunk, as SOL does though it is shortening instead of lengthening. Force developed from highly stretched passive hip structures and active force produced by the uniarticular hip flexors assisted GAS in swing initiation. Hamstrings (HAM) decelerated the leg in late swing while lengthening and accelerated the leg in the beginning of stance while shortening. We conclude that the uniarticular knee and hip extensor muscles are critical to body support in the beginning of stance and redistribution of segmental power by muscles throughout the gait cycle is critical to forward progression of the trunk and legs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*