Neuromuscular Strategies in Stretch-Shortening Exercises with Increasing Drop Heights: The Role of Muscle Coactivation in Leg Stiffness and Power Propulsion

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 21;17(22):8647. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17228647.


When applying drop jump exercises, knowing the magnitude of the stimulus is fundamental to stabilize the leg joints and to generate movements with the highest power. The effects of different drop heights on leg muscles coactivation, leg stiffness and power propulsion were investigated in fifteen sport science students. Drop jumps from heights of 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 cm in a random order were performed on a force platform. During each drop jump, the ground reaction force, knee angle displacement, and synchronized surface-electromyography root-mean-square (sEMGRMS) activity (vastus lateralis, VL; vastus medialis, VM; rectus femoris, RF; biceps femoris, BF; tibialis anterior, TA and lateral gastrocnemius, LG) were recorded. The coactivation in the pre-contact phase, between VL and BF, VM and BF as well as RF and BF, was dependent on the drop height (p < 0.01; effect size (ES) ranged from 0.45 to 0.90). Leg stiffness was dependent on the drop height (p < 0.001; ES = 0.27-0.28) and was modulated by the coactivation of VM-BF (p = 0.034) and RF-BF (p = 0.046) during the braking phase. Power propulsion was also dependent on the drop height (p < 0.001; ES = 0.34); however, it was primarily modulated by the coactivation of LG-TA during the braking phase (p = 0.002). The coactivation of thigh muscles explains leg stiffness adjustments at different drop heights. On the contrary, the coactivation of shank muscles is mostly responsible for the power propulsion.

Keywords: EMG activity; co-contraction; drop jump; momentum; pre-activation.

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Plyometric Exercise*
  • Track and Field / physiology*
  • Young Adult