Intermuscular force transmission between human plantarflexor muscles in vivo

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Dec;109(6):1608-18. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01381.2009. Epub 2010 Sep 30.


The exact mechanical function of synergist muscles within a human limb in vivo is not well described. Recent studies indicate the existence of a mechanical interaction between muscle actuators that may have functional significance and further play a role for injury mechanisms. The purpose of the present study was to investigate if intermuscular force transmission occurs within and between human plantarflexor muscles in vivo. Seven subjects performed four types of either active contractile tasks or passive joint manipulations: passive knee extension, voluntary isometric plantarflexion, voluntary isometric hallux flexion, passive hallux extension, and selective percutaneous stimulation of the gastrocnemius medialis (MG). In each experiment plantar- and hallux flexion force and corresponding EMG activity were sampled. During all tasks ultrasonography was applied at proximal and distal sites to assess task-induced tissue displacement (which is assumed to represent loading) for the plantarflexor muscles [MG, soleus (SOL), and flexor hallucis longus (FHL)]. Selective MG stimulation and passive knee extension resulted in displacement of both the MG and SOL muscles. Minimal displacement of the triceps surae muscles was seen during passive hallux extension. Large interindividual differences with respect to deep plantarflexor activation during voluntary contractions were observed. The present results suggest that force may be transmitted between the triceps surae muscles in vivo, while only limited evidence was provided for the occurrence of force transfer between the triceps surae and the deeper-lying FHL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthrometry, Articular
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography