Subject specific muscle synergies and mechanical output during cycling with arms or legs

  • Cartier Théo
  • Vigouroux Laurent
  • Viehweger Elke
  • Rao Guillaume

  • Arm cranking
  • Upper limb
  • Lower limb
  • Cycling
  • Muscle synergies
  • Muscle coordination


Upper (UL) and lower limb (LL) cycling is extensively used for several applications, especially for rehabilitation for which neuromuscular interactions between UL and LL have been shown. Nevertheless, the knowledge on the muscular coordination modality for UL is poorly investigated and it is still not known whether those mechanisms are similar or different to those of LL. The aim of this study was thus to put in evidence common coordination mechanism between UL and LL during cycling by investigating the mechanical output and the underlying muscle coordination using synergy analysis. Methods. Twenty-five revolutions were analyzed for six non-experts' participants during sub-maximal cycling with UL or LL. Crank torque and muscle activity of eleven muscles UL or LL were recorded. Muscle synergies were extracted using nonnegative matrix factorization (NNMF) and group-and subject-specific analysis were conducted. Results. Four synergies were extracted for both UL and LL. UL muscle coordination was organized around several mechanical functions (pushing, downing, and pulling) with a proportion of propulsive torque almost 80% of the total revolution while LL muscle coordination was organized around a main function (pushing) during the first half of the cycling revolution. LL muscle coordination was robust between participants while UL presented higher interindividual variability. Discussion. We showed that a same principle of muscle coordination exists for UL during cycling but with more complex mechanical implications. This study also brings further results suggesting each individual has unique muscle signature.