On our astronomical neighbours Mars and the Moon, bouncing movements are the preferred locomotor techniques. During bouncing, the stretch-shortening cycle describes the muscular activation pattern. This study aimed to identify gravity-dependent changes in kinematic and neuromuscular characteristics in the stretch-shortening cycle. Hence, neuromuscular control of limb muscles as well as correlations between the muscles' pre-activation, reflex components, and the force output were assessed in lunar, Martian, and Earth gravity. During parabolic flights, peak force (Fmax), ground-contact-time, rate of force development (RFD), height, and impulse were measured. Electromyographic (EMG) activities in the m. soleus (SOL) and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) were assessed before (PRE) and during bounces for the reflex phases short-, medium-, and long-latency response (SLR, MLR, LLR). With gradually decreasing gravitation, Fmax, RFD, and impulse were reduced, whereas ground-contact-time and height increased. Concomitantly, EMG_GM decreased for PRE, SLR, MLR, and LLR and in EMG_SOL in SLR, MLR, and LLR. For SLR and MLR, Fmax and RFD were positively correlated to EMG_SOL. For PRE and LLR, RFD and Fmax were positively correlated to EMG_GM. Findings emphasise that biomechanically relevant kinematic adaptations in response to gravity variation were accompanied by muscle- and phase-specific modulations in neural control. Gravitational variation is anticipated and compensated for by gravity-adjusted muscle activities. Importantly, the pre-activation and reflex phases were differently affected: in SLR and MLR, SOL is assumed to contribute to the decline in force output with a decreasing load, and complementary in PRE and LLR, GM seems to be of major importance for force generation.
- stretch-shortening cycle
- parabolic flight
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Applied Physiology