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Postural synergies in axial movements: short and long-term adaptation

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Fast backward trunk movements are accompanied by hip, knee and ankle rotation which compensate for the backward shift of the center of gravity. The electromyographic pattern associated with the performance of these movements and the associated synergies consists of a fairly synchronous activation of the prime mover (erectores spinae) and the muscles situated at the back of the leg (hamstring, calf muscles). This pattern is called the “non anticipated pattern”. The effect of training on the EMG pattern and on the subjects' mechanical performances was investigated by comparing a population of untrained subjects with one of highly trained gymnasts. A new EMG pattern was observed in the highly trained gymnasts, the “distally anticipated pattern” consisting of an early activation of the gastrocnemius, and in some subjects also of the hamstring, indicating that a long term adaptation had taken place. Performances expressed as a ratio between the displacement of the center of gravity projection onto the ground and the velocity of the movement were clearly better in the gymnasts. Short term adaptation was found to occur in the gymnasts and not in the untrained group when the movement was performed while standing on a narrow support. A suppression of the distal gastrocnemius burst occurred in the gymnasts from the first trial under the constrained standing condition whereas no change occurred in the untrained group. The flexibility of the EMG patterns associated with axial movements occurring either spontaneously or as a result of long or short term training is discussed.

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Correspondence to J. Massion.

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Pedotti, A., Crenna, P., Deat, A. et al. Postural synergies in axial movements: short and long-term adaptation. Exp Brain Res 74, 3–10 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00248275

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Key words

  • Postural synergies
  • Adaptation
  • Axial movements