We review here the use and reliability of Hill-type muscle models to predict muscle performance under varying conditions, ranging from in situ production of isometric force to in vivo dynamics of muscle length change and force in response to activation. Muscle models are frequently used in musculoskeletal simulations of movement, particularly when applied to studies of human motor performance in which surgically implanted transducers have limited use. Musculoskeletal simulations of different animal species also are being developed to evaluate comparative and evolutionary aspects of locomotor performance. However, such models are rarely validated against direct measures of fascicle strain or recordings of muscle-tendon force. Historically, Hill-type models simplify properties of whole muscle by scaling salient properties of single fibers to whole muscles, typically accounting for a muscle's architecture and series elasticity. Activation of the model's single contractile element (assigned the properties of homogenous fibers) is also simplified and is often based on temporal features of myoelectric (EMG) activation recorded from the muscle. Comparison of standard one-element models with a novel two-element model and with in situ and in vivo measures of EMG, fascicle strain, and force recorded from the gastrocnemius muscles of goats shows that a two-element Hill-type model, which allows independent recruitment of slow and fast units, better predicts temporal patterns of in situ and in vivo force. Recruitment patterns of slow/fast units based on wavelet decomposition of EMG activity in frequency-time space are generally correlated with the intensity spectra of the EMG signals, the strain rates of the fascicles, and the muscle-tendon forces measured in vivo, with faster units linked to greater strain rates and to more rapid forces. Using direct measures of muscle performance to further test Hill-type models, whether traditional or more complex, remains critical for establishing their accuracy and essential for verifying their applicability to scientific and clinical studies of musculoskeletal function.
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