Distal muscle cross-sectional area is correlated with shot put performance

J Biomech. 2023 Sep 26:160:111819. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2023.111819. Online ahead of print.


Shot putters throw a heavy shot by "pushing". Pushing involves the coordinated extension of multiple joints and is a common motor task for both upper and lower limbs. In lower limb musculature, proximal-specific development and association with motor performance have been shown in athletes. However, as the upper limb is not mechanically loaded to support the body during daily locomotion, it may develop differently from the lower limb. We investigated the cross-sectional area of the prime movers of the upper limb and upper trunk (pectoralis major, deltoid, triceps brachii, and palmar flexors) in eleven male shot put athletes and fourteen untrained males by obtaining magnetic resonance images and manually tracing the muscles on the images. All target muscles were significantly larger in athletes than non-athletes (p < 0.01), with "huge" effect sizes for the pectoralis major and palmar flexors (d = 2.74, 2.04). All target muscle cross-sectional areas were positively correlated with season best record (r ≥ 0.62, p ≤ 0.04), with a particularly strong correlation for the palmar flexors (r = 0.96). These results suggest that the distal muscles of the upper limb are also expected to develop and are strongly associated with motor performance. This is especially true for the distal upper limb muscles (palmar flexors) in shot putters. These findings provide insight into potential training interventions for athletic performance in forceful upper limb movements.

Keywords: MRI; Musculoskeletal; Palmar flexor muscles; Shot put.