Estimation of muscle forces during motion involves solving an indeterminate problem (more unknown muscle forces than joint moment constraints), frequently via optimization methods. When the dynamics of muscle activation and contraction are modeled for consistency with muscle physiology, the resulting optimization problem is dynamic and challenging to solve. This study sought to identify a robust and computationally efficient formulation for solving these dynamic optimization problems using direct collocation optimal control methods. Four problem formulations were investigated for walking based on both a two and three dimensional model. Formulations differed in the use of either an explicit or implicit representation of contraction dynamics with either muscle length or tendon force as a state variable. The implicit representations introduced additional controls defined as the time derivatives of the states, allowing the nonlinear equations describing contraction dynamics to be imposed as algebraic path constraints, simplifying their evaluation. Problem formulation affected computational speed and robustness to the initial guess. The formulation that used explicit contraction dynamics with muscle length as a state failed to converge in most cases. In contrast, the two formulations that used implicit contraction dynamics converged to an optimal solution in all cases for all initial guesses, with tendon force as a state generally being the fastest. Future work should focus on comparing the present approach to other approaches for computing muscle forces. The present approach lacks some of the major limitations of established methods such as static optimization and computed muscle control while remaining computationally efficient.
Keywords: Biomechanics; Direct collocation; Muscle dynamics; Muscle force estimation; Optimization.