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Raasch - 1997 - Muscle coordination of maximum-speed pedaling


Raasch CC, Zajac FE, Ma B, Levine WS. Muscle coordination of maximum-speed pedaling. J Biomechanics. 1997 Jun;30(6):595-602. PUBMED

10 Word Summary

Pedaling behaviors are explained by two functional groups of muscles.


A simulation based on a forward dynamical musculoskeletal model was computed from an optimal control algorithm to understand uni- and bi-articular muscle coordination of maximum-speed startup pedaling. The muscle excitations, pedal reaction forces, and crank and pedal kinematics of the simulation agreed with measurements from subjects. Over the crank cycle, uniarticular hip and knee extensor muscles provide 55% of the propulsive energy, even though 27% of the amount they produce in the downstroke is absorbed in the upstroke. Only 44% of the energy produced by these muscles during downstroke is delivered to the crank directly. The other 56% is delivered to the limb segments, and then transferred to the crank by the ankle plantarflexors. The plantarflexors, especially soleus, also prevent knee hyperextension, by slowing the knee extension being produced during downstroke by the other muscles, including hamstrings. Hamstrings and rectus femoris make smooth pedaling possible by propelling the crank through the stroke transitions. Other simulations showed that pedaling can be performed well by partitioning all the muscles in a leg into two pairs of phase-controlled alternating functional groups, with each group also alternating with its contralateral counterpart. In this scheme, the uniarticular hip/knee extensor muscles (one group) are excited during downstroke, and the uniarticular hip/knee flexor muscles (the alternating group) during upstroke. The ankle dorsiflexor and rectus femoris muscles (one group of the other pair) are excited near the transition from upstroke to downstroke, and the ankle plantarflexors and hamstrings muscles (the alternating group) during the downstroke to upstroke transition. We conclude that these alternating functional muscle groups might represent a centrally generated primitive for not only pedaling but also other locomotor tasks as well.


  • The majority of the mechanical work in cycling comes from (in order) Vasti 30%, Gluteus  Maximus 20% and Soleus 10%.
  • The nominal muscle activation pattern was found to be insensitive to different pedaling regimes.
  • Pedaling can be explained as just two phase-controlled signals that control two functional groups of muscles