Explosive strength: effect of knee-joint angle on functional, neural, and intrinsic contractile properties

PURPOSE: The present study compared knee extension explosive isometric torque, neuromuscular activation, and intrinsic contractile properties at five different knee-joint angles (35°, 50°, 65°, 80°, and 95°; 0° = full knee extension). METHODS: Twenty-eight young healthy males performed two experimental sessions each involving: 2 maximum, and 6-8 explosive voluntary contractions at each angle; to measure maximum voluntary torque (MVT), explosive voluntary torque (EVT; 50-150 ms after contraction onset) and quadriceps surface EMG (QEMG, 0-50, 0-100, and 0-150 ms after EMG onset during the explosive contractions). Maximum twitch and M-wave (MMAX) responses as well as octet contractions were evoked with femoral nerve stimulation at each angle. RESULTS: Absolute MVT and EVT showed an inverted 'U' relationship with higher torque at intermediate angles. There were no differences between knee-joint angles for relative EVT (%MVT) during the early phase (≤ 75 ms) of contraction and only subtle differences during the late phase (≥ 75 ms) of contraction (≤ 11%). Neuromuscular activation during explosive contractions was greater at more flexed than extended positions, and this was also the case during MVT. Whilst relative twitch torque (%MVT) was higher at knee flexed positions (P ≤ 0.001), relative octet torque (%MVT) was higher at knee extended positions (P ≤ 0.001). CONCLUSION: Relative EVT was broadly similar between joint angles, likely because neuromuscular activation during both explosive and plateau (maximum) phases of contraction changed proportionally, and due to the opposing changes in twitch and octet evoked responses with joint angle.