EMG patterns of rat ankle extensors and flexors during treadmill locomotion and swimming

R. R. Roy, D. L. Hutchison, D. J. Pierotti, J. A. Hodgson, V. R. Edgerton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

235 Scopus citations


Intramuscular electromyography (EMG) was used to determine and compare the recruitment patterns of the rat soleus (Sol), tibialis anterior (TA), and a deep and a superficial portion of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) during treadmill locomotion at various speeds and inclines and during swimming. Raw EMG signals for 10-20 step or stroke cycles were rectified, averaged, and processed to determine cycle period (EMG onset of one cycle to EMG onset of the next cycle), EMG burst duration, and integrated area of the rectified burst (IEMG). Mean EMG per burst was calculated as IEMG/burst duration. IEMG/min was calculated as IEMG times the number of bursts (cycles) per minute. Cycle period and burst duration of the extensors decreased hyperbolically, while the TA burst duration was unchanged, with increased treadmill speed. With increased treadmill speed, IEMG was decreased in the Sol and unchanged in the MG and TA, whereas IEMG/min decreased in the Sol and increased in the MG and TA. An elevation in treadmill incline resulted in an increase in the activation levels of the MG but not in the Sol or TA. These data indicate that the additional power required at increased speeds and/or inclines of treadmill locomotion is derived from the recruitment of the fast extensors, e.g., the MG. The mean cycle period during swimming was similar to that observed during the fastest treadmill locomotion. EMG burst durations and amplitudes, however, were higher in the TA, relatively similar in the MG, and lower in the Sol during swimming than treadmill locomotion. Thus it appears that swimming is a non-weight-bearing form of locomotion that apparently unloads the slow antigravity muscles, e.g., the Sol, and loads the flexors, e.g., the TA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2522-2529
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991


  • intramuscular electromyography
  • recruitment
  • skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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