Effects of activation pattern on nonisometric human skeletal muscle performance

Ryan D. Maladen, Ramu Perumal, Anthony S. Wexler, Stuart A. Binder-Macleod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


During volitional muscle activation, motor units often fire with varying discharge patterns that include brief, high-frequency bursts of activity. These variations in the activation rate allow the central nervous system to precisely control the forces produced by the muscle. The present study explores how varying the instantaneous frequency of stimulation pulses within a train affects nonisometric muscle performance. The peak excursion produced in response to each stimulation train was considered as the primary measure of muscle performance. The results showed that at each frequency tested between 10 and 50 Hz, variable-frequency trains that took advantage of the catchlike property of skeletal muscle produced greater excursions than constant-frequency trains. In addition, variable-frequency trains that could achieve targeted trajectories with fewer pulses than constant-frequency trains were identified. These findings suggest that similar to voluntary muscle activation patterns, varying the instantaneous frequency within a train of pulses can be used to improve muscle performance during functional electrical stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1985-1991
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Doublets
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Nonisometric contractions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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