The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of changes in muscle length on the torque fluctuations and on related oscillations in muscle activity during voluntary isometric contractions of ankle plantar flexor muscles. Eleven healthy individuals were asked to perform voluntary isometric contractions of ankle muscles at five different contraction intensities from 10% to 70% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) and at three different muscle lengths, implemented by changing the ankle joint angle (plantar flexion of 26°-shorter muscle length; plantar flexion of 10°-neutral muscle length; dorsiflexion of 3°-longer muscle length). Surface electromyogram (EMG) signals were recorded from the skin surface over the triceps surae muscles, and rectified-and-smoothed EMG (rsEMG) were estimated to assess the oscillations in muscle activity. The absolute torque fluctuations (quantified by the standard deviation) were significantly higher during moderate-to-high contractions at the longer muscle length. Absolute torque fluctuations were found to be a linear function of torque output regardless of muscle length. In contrast, the relative torque fluctuations (quantified by the coefficient of variation) were higher at the shorter muscle length. However, both absolute and relative oscillations in muscle activities remained relatively consistent at different ankle joint angles for all plantar flexors. These findings suggest that the torque steadiness may be affected by not only muscle activities, but also by muscle length-dependent mechanical properties. This study provides more insights that muscle mechanics should be considered when explaining the steadiness in force output.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- force variability
- low-frequency oscillation
- muscle length
- signal-dependent noise