Muscle dynamics differences between legs in healthy adults

J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Feb;21(1):67-72. doi: 10.1519/00124278-200702000-00013.


Differences in muscle dynamics between the preferred and nonpreferred jumping legs of subjects in maximal, explosive exercise were examined. Eight subjects performed nonfatiguing bouts of single-legged drop jumps and rebound jumps on a force sledge apparatus. Measures of flight time, reactive strength index, peak vertical force, and vertical leg-spring stiffness were obtained for 3 drop jumps and 3 rebound jumps on both legs. Subjects utilized a stiffer leg spring and a more explosive jumping action in the nonpreferred leg when performing a cyclical rebound jumping task in comparison to a single drop jump task (observed through differences in vertical leg-spring stiffness, peak vertical force, and reactive strength index, p < 0.05). The preferred leg performed equally well in both tasks. Between-leg analysis showed no differences in dependent variables between the preferred and the nonpreferred leg in the rebound jumping protocol. However, the drop jump protocol showed significant performance differences, with flight time and reactive strength index greater in the preferred leg than the nonpreferred leg (p < 0.05). We hypothesize that, throughout the lifespan, both legs are equally trained in cyclical rebound jumping tasks through running. However, because a preferred leg must be selected when performing any one-off, single-legged jump, imbalances in this specific task develop over time with consistent selection of a preferred jumping leg. The data demonstrate that the rebound jump protocol is representative of the symmetrical mechanics of forward running and that leg-spring stiffness is modulated depending on the demands of the specific task involved. Strength and conditioning practitioners should give careful consideration to appropriate jump protocol selection and should exercise caution when comparing laboratory results to data gathered in field testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Video Recording