Force summation between muscles: Are muscles independent actuators?

Thomas G. Sandercock, Huub Maas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Muscle force can be transmitted via connective tissues to neighboring muscles. The goal of this research is to determine the extent to which this effects force summation between synergists during physiological conditions. This manuscript reviews two studies examining the interaction between synergists in cat hindlimb. Deeply anesthetized cats were mounted in a rigid frame with the foot secured to a six-degree-of-freedom load cell coupled to a robotic arm. Muscles were stimulated by implanted nerve cuff electrodes. In the first study, force summation was measured during isometric contractions. Interactions were studied between the lateral gastrocnemius (LG)/soleus (SOL) and the medial gastrocnemius (MG) as well as between, rectus femoris and vastus lateralis. Invariably, nonlinear force summation was less than 10% of maximum force for all three translationai directions and all three rotational directions. The second study investigated if force transmission from. SOL fibers was affected by length changes of its two-joint synergists. Ankle plantar flexor moment, upon activation of only SOL, was measured for various knee angles (70°-140°), which involved substantial length changes of LG, MG, and plantaris muscles. Ankle angle was kept constant (80°-90°). SOL ankle moment was not significantly (P = 0.11) affected by changes in knee angle, neither were the half-relaxation time and the maximal rate of relaxation. The connective tissue links between SOL and LG were further studied during a tenotomy of the SOL and demonstrated that the connective links can transmit ~50% of the force from the SOL to the LG in nonphysiological conditions. In conclusion, despite strong connective tissue linkages, in cat hindlimb synergistic muscles appear to be independent actuators if acting in physiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-190
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Cat
  • Fascia
  • Myofascial
  • Tendon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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