Motor patterns of a fast voluntary postural task in man: trunk extension in standing

Acta Physiol Scand. 1989 May;136(1):47-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1989.tb08628.x.


The co-ordination between muscles controlling the primary movement and associated postural adjustments during fast trunk extension movements was studied in six male subjects. Myoelectrical activity (EMG) was recorded from antagonistic muscle pairs at the trunk, hip, knee and ankle. Horizontal displacements of the upper trunk, hip and knee were recorded with an opto-electronic system (Selspot). A backward displacement of the trunk was accompanied by a forward displacement of the hip and knee. In general, the trunk started to move 30 ms before the hip and knee. Muscle activity first appeared in the ankle extensors (soleus/gastrocnemius) up to 150 ms prior to onset of prime mover muscles (trunk extensor, erector spinae; and hip extensors/knee flexors, hamstrings). This pre-activation was seldom followed by any detectable ankle joint movement. Prime mover muscles were activated simultaneously followed by the hip extensor gluteus maximus. Time to activation of muscles braking the movement (rectus abdominis, rectus femoris and vastus lateralis) was correlated with the amplitude of the primary movement (r = 0.63 0.75, P less than 0.01). Onset of activity in vastus lateralis was highly correlated with the amplitude of the forward displacement of the knee (r = 0.93, P less than 0.01). An associated postural adjustment appeared as an ankle flexion accompanied by activity in the ankle flexor tibialis anterior, and often also in the ankle extensors. This co-activation of antagonistic ankle muscles can under certain conditions have interesting functional implications for the control of posture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture*