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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Does a decrease in seat height modify the effect of cadence on activation of the triceps surae during cycling? Cawsey, Ryan Peter


Introduction: Several authors have demonstrated that, while cycling at a constant power output, EMG activity from the gastrocnemius increases systematically with increases in pedaling cadence, but that soleus EMG remains unchanged (Marsh & Martin 1995; Sanderson et al. 2006). The reason for this differential effect of cadence on the muscles of the triceps surae is unclear. Whatever factor(s) are responsible, it is assumed that, as they vary, the differential electromyographic response will vary accordingly. Decreasing the seat height has been shown to alter the kinematic characteristics of cycling (Too, 1990). The first objective of this study was to examine the effect of a decrease in seat height on the kinematics and muscle activation of the lower limb. The second objective was to investigate the effect of seat height on the relationship between cadence and triceps surae activation and, in doing so, to reveal possible factors mediating the response to changes in cadence. Methods: Participants pedaled a cycle ergometer at 200 Watts for five minutes at each of five cadences (50, 65, 80, 95, 110 rpm) and at each of two seat heights (100% and 90% trochanteric height). Kinematics of the lower limb were calculated from digitized video records of reflective markers placed on the skin over seven bony landmarks. EMG data were collected from eight lower-limb muscles. Results: The most notable findings were 1) that activation of the gastrocnemii was less in the low-seat condition and, contrary to what the findings of past research would suggest, was not associated with changes in muscle length; 2) that the medial and lateral gastrocnemii responded differently to changes in cadence at each seat height, suggesting that the functional roles of these muscles in cycling differ; 3) that several factors, including muscle length, muscle velocity, ankle angle and the direction of muscle action, were not responsible for the differential effect of cadence on activation of the soleus and gastrocnemius. Future research should investigate afferent feedback from proprioceptors in the knee joint and knee extensor muscles as possible factors mediating the effect.

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