Purpose: The goal of the present study was to determine the contribution of the intrinsic muscle properties and muscle activation of the knee extensors to the maximal rate of unilateral isometric torque development and to relate both factors to maximal bilateral jumping performance in experienced jumpers. On the basis of previous studies, we hypothesized that maximal rate of torque development during maximal effort isometric contractions and jump height would depend on the subjects' ability for maximal muscle activation rather than on the muscle's contractile properties.
Methods: Eleven male elite volleyball players (20 +/- 2 yr, means +/- SD) performed squat jumps starting from a 120 degrees knee angle (SJ120; full extension = 180 degrees ) and countermovement jumps. In addition, maximal voluntary and electrically evoked unilateral isometric knee-extension torque development (120 degrees angle) was obtained. Torque time integral for the first 40 ms after torque onset (TTI40) and (time to) maximal rate of torque development (MRTD) were calculated. Muscle activation was quantified using surface EMG.
Results: Voluntary TTI40 was significantly related to the preceding EMG (r2 = 0.83) and negatively related to the time to MRTD (r2 = 0.64). Voluntary MRTD and TTI40 were not related to their respective values obtained during electrical stimulation (r2 < 0.04). Only electrically evoked MRTD was significantly related to jump height (e.g., r2 = 0.70 for SJ120).
Conclusions: As expected initial maximal voluntary isometric torque development correlated with muscle activation and not with muscle contractile speed. However, unexpectedly, only the latter could predict jump performance in skilled jumpers.