Biomechanical Methods to Quantify Muscle Effort During Resistance Exercise

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Chiu, LZF. Biomechanical methods to quantify muscle effort during resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res 32(2): 502–513, 2018—Muscle hypertrophy and strength adaptations elicited by resistance training are dependent on the force exerted by active muscles. As an exercise may use many muscles, determining force for individual muscles or muscle groupings is important to understand the relation between an exercise and these adaptations. Muscle effort—the amount of force or a surrogate measure related to the amount of force exerted during a task—can be quantified using biomechanical methods. The purpose of this review was to summarize the biomechanical methods used to estimate muscle effort in movements, particularly resistance training exercises. These approaches include the following: (a) inverse dynamics with rigid body models, (b) forward dynamics and EMG-driven models, (c) normalized EMG, and (d) inverse dynamics with point-mass models. Rigid body models quantify muscle effort as net joint moments. Forward dynamics and EMG-driven models estimate muscle force as well as determine the effect of a muscle's action throughout the body. Nonlinear relations between EMG and muscle force and normalization reference action selection affect the usefulness of EMG as a measure of muscle effort. Point-mass models include kinetics calculated from barbell (or other implement) kinematics recorded using electromechanical transducers or measured using force platforms. Point-mass models only allow the net force exerted on the barbell or lifter-barbell system to be determined, so they cannot be used to estimate muscle effort. Data from studies using rigid body models, normalized EMG, and musculoskeletal modeling should be combined to develop hypotheses regarding muscle effort; these hypotheses should be verified by training interventions.

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