Arm cycling is a bimanual motor task used in medical rehabilitation and in sports training. Understanding how muscle coordination changes across different biomechanical constraints in arm cycling is a step toward improved rehabilitation approaches. This exploratory study aims to get new insights on motor control during arm cycling. To achieve our main goal, we used the muscle synergies analysis to test three hypotheses: 1) body position with respect to gravity (sitting and supine) has an effect on muscle synergies; 2) the movement size (crank length) has an effect on the synergistic behavior; 3) the bimanual cranking mode (asynchronous and synchronous) requires different synergistic control. Thirteen able-bodied volunteers performed arm cranking on a custom-made device with unconnected cranks, which allowed testing three different conditions: body position (sitting vs. supine), crank length (10?cm vs. 15?cm), and cranking mode (synchronous vs. asynchronous). For each of the eight possible combinations, subjects cycled for 30?s while electromyography of eight muscles (four from each arm) were recorded: biceps brachii, triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, and posterior deltoid. Muscle synergies in this eight-dimensional muscle space were extracted by nonnegative matrix factorization. Four synergies accounted for over 90% of muscle activation variances in all conditions. Results showed that synergies were affected by body position and cranking mode but practically unaffected by movement size. These results suggest that the central nervous system may employ different motor control strategies in response to external constraints such as cranking mode and body position during arm cycling.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Recent studies analyzed muscle synergies in lower limb cycling. Here, we examine upper limb cycling and specifically the effect of body position with respect to gravity, movement size, and cranking mode on muscle coordination during arm cranking tasks. We show that altered body position and cranking mode affects modular organization of muscle activities. To our knowledge, this is the first study assessing motor control through muscle synergies framework during upper limb cycling with different constraints.
- Effects of gravity and kinematic constraints on muscle synergies in arm cycling