Muscle activation profiles about the knee during Tai-Chi stepping movement compared to the normal gait step

Shih Chiao Tseng, Wei Liu, Margaret Finley, Kevin McQuade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate knee muscle activity patterns in experienced Tai-Chi (TC) practitioners during normal walking and TC stepping. The electromyographic (EMG) activity of vastus lateralis (VL), vastus medialis (VM), bicep femoris (BF), and gastrocnemius (GS) muscles of 11 subjects (five females and six males) during the stance phase of normal walking was compared to stance phase of a TC step. Knee joint motion was also monitored by using an Optotrak™motion analysis system. Raw EMG was processed by root-mean-square (RMS) technique using a time constant of 50 ms, and normalized to maximum of voluntary contraction for each muscle, referred to as normalized RMS (nRMS). Peak nRMS and co-contraction (quantified by co-contraction index) during stance phase of a gait cycle and a TC step were calculated. Paired t-tests were used to compare the difference for each muscle group peak and co-contraction pair between the tasks. The results showed that only peak values of nRMS in quadriceps and co-contraction were significantly greater in TC stepping compared to normal walking (Peak values of nRMS for VL were 26.93% for normal walking and 52.14% for TC step, p = 0.001; VM are 29.12% for normal walking and 51.93% for TC stepping, p = 0.028). Mean co-contraction index for VL-BF muscle pairs was 13.24 ± 11.02% during TC stepping and 9.47 ± 7.77% in stance phase of normal walking (p = 0.023). There was no significant difference in peak values of nRMS in the other two muscles during TC stepping compared to normal walking. Preliminary EMG profiles in this study demonstrated that experienced TC practitioners used relatively higher levels of knee muscle activation patterns with greater co-contraction during TC exercise compared to normal walking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-380
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromyography
  • Knee
  • Muscle activation
  • Tai-Chi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Neurology


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