Mechanical output from individual muscles during explosive leg extensions: the role of biarticular muscles

J Biomech. 1996 Apr;29(4):513-23. doi: 10.1016/0021-9290(95)00067-4.


The main result of this study is that biarticular leg muscles contribute significantly to the work done at joints, due to transfer of power during explosive leg extensions. In particular, a net power transfer was shown from hip to knee joint during jumping and sprinting. Seven elite athletes performed explosive one legged jump and spring push offs. Kinematics, ground reaction forces and electromyography (EMG) of leg muscles were recorded. The mechanical output of six individual muscle groups was estimated by using Hill-based muscle models. The EMG and kinematics served as input to these models. For jumping as well as for sprinting, the model estimated similar results for the relative work contribution done about a joint due to transfer of power by the biarticular muscles. Rectus femoris showed a power transfer from hip to knee joint, while in contrast hamstrings showed a power transfer from knee to hip joint. Regardless of these opposite directions of power transfer, a net transfer occurred from the hip to the knee joint. The relative work contribution of hamstrings done in hip extension was 7% in jumping and 11% in sprinting. For rectus femoris, the relative work contribution done in knee extension was 21% in jumping and 31% in sprinting. Power transferring actions by gastrocnemius from knee to ankle contributed 25% in jumping and 28% in sprinting to the work done in plantar flexion. These results support the hypothesis that the action of biarticular muscles contributes to a net transfer of power from proximal to distal joints during explosive leg extensions. This action of the biarticular muscles causes an efficient conversion of body segment rotations into the desired translation of the body centre of gravity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Energy Transfer
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Time Factors