Selective recruitment of the triceps surae muscles with changes in knee angle

Joseph F. Signorile, Brooks Applegate, Maurice Duque, Natalie Cole, Attila Zink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The muscles of the triceps surae group are important for performance in most sports and in the performance of activities of daily life. In addition, hypertrophy and balance among these muscles are integral to success in bodybuilding. The purpose of this study was to compare the muscle utilization patterns of the 2 major muscles of the triceps surae group, the soleus (SOL) and gastrocnemius (lateral head = LG and medial head = MG), and the tibialis anterior (TA) as an antagonist muscle to the group. Their electromyographic (EMG) signals were compared during 50 constant external resistance contractions at a level established before the testing session. Eleven experienced subjects contributed data during plantar flexion at 3 different knee angles (90, 135, and 180°). Both root mean square amplitude and integrated signal analyses of the EMGs revealed that the MG produced significantly greater activity than either the SOL or TA at 180°, whereas the LG was not different from the SOL at any knee angle measured. Data also revealed that the SOL produced less electrical activity at 180° than at the other knee angles, whereas the MG produced greater electrical activity. As would be expected, the TA produced lower EMG values than any of the triceps surae muscles at all angles tested. These data indicate that selective targeting of the SOL and MG is possible through the manipulation of knee angle. This targeting appears to be controlled by the biarticular and monoarticular structures of the MG and SOL, respectively. The LG appears less affected by knee position than the MG. Results suggest that the SOL can be targeted most effectively with the knee flexed at 90° and the MG with the leg fully extended. The LG appears to also be more active at 180°; however, it is not as affected as the MG or SOL by knee angle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-439
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of strength and conditioning research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Biomechanical specificity
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Resistance training
  • Soleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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