Changes in gravity affect neuromuscular control, biomechanics and muscle-tendon mechanics in energy storage and dissipation tasks

Janice Waldvogel, Kathrin Freyler, Michael Helm, Elena Monti, Benjamin Stäudle, Albert Gollhofer, Marco V Narici, Ramona Ritzmann, Kirsten Albracht

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


This study evaluates neuromechanical control and muscle-tendon interaction during energy storage and dissipation tasks in hypergravity. During parabolic flights, while 17 subjects performed drop jumps (DJs) and drop landings (DLs), electromyography (EMG) of the lower limb muscles was combined with in vivo fascicle dynamics of the gastrocnemius medialis, two-dimensional (2D) kinematics, and kinetics to measure and analyze changes in energy management. Comparisons were made between movement modalities executed in hypergravity (1.8 G) and gravity on ground (1 G). In 1.8 G, ankle dorsiflexion, knee joint flexion, and vertical center of mass (COM) displacement are lower in DJs than in DLs; within each movement modality, joint flexion amplitudes and COM displacement demonstrate higher values in 1.8 G than in 1 G. Concomitantly, negative peak ankle joint power, vertical ground reaction forces, and leg stiffness are similar between both movement modalities (1.8 G). In DJs, EMG activity in 1.8 G is lower during the COM deceleration phase than in 1 G, thus impairing quasi-isometric fascicle behavior. In DLs, EMG activity before and during the COM deceleration phase is higher, and fascicles are stretched less in 1.8 G than in 1 G. Compared with the situation in 1 G, highly task-specific neuromuscular activity is diminished in 1.8 G, resulting in fascicle lengthening in both movement modalities. Specifically, in DJs, a high magnitude of neuromuscular activity is impaired, resulting in altered energy storage. In contrast, in DLs, linear stiffening of the system due to higher neuromuscular activity combined with lower fascicle stretch enhances the buffering function of the tendon, and thus the capacity to safely dissipate energy. NEW & NOTEWORTHY For the first time, the neuromechanics of distinct movement modalities that fundamentally differ in their energy management function have been investigated during overload systematically induced by hypergravity. Parabolic flight provides a unique experimental setting that allows near-natural movement execution without the confounding effects typically associated with load variation. Our findings show that gravity-adjusted muscle activities are inversely affected within jumps and landings. Specifically, in 1.8 G, typical task-specific differences in neuromuscular activity are reduced during the center of mass deceleration phase, resulting in fascicle lengthening, which is associated with energy dissipation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)190-202
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2023

Research areas and keywords

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Leg/physiology
  • Muscle Contraction/physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal/physiology
  • Tendons/physiology


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