The primary purpose of this thesis was to assess the effect of knee-joint angle on the neuromechanics of maximal and explosive contractions, specifically torque and neuromuscular activation, as well as the influence of isometric resistance training (RT) on these variables and thus joint angle specificity of training adaptations. It was found that electrode location had a pronounced effect on surface electromyography (sEMG) amplitude during maximum isometric voluntary contractions (MVCs) and moderate relationship between subcutaneous tissue thickness and sEMG amplitude (R2=0.31 up to 0.38) was reduced but not consistently removed by maximal M-Wave (MMAX) normalization [up to R2= 0.16 (peak-to-peak) and R2= 0.23 (Area)]. Thus, MMAX peak-to-peak was the better normalization parameter that removed the influence of electrode location and substantially reduced the influence of subcutaneous tissue thickness. Maximal torque-angle relationship presented an inverted U shape with both, agonist (measure by two different techniques) and antagonist neuromuscular activation both differing with knee-joint angle and thus, both likely contributing to the torque-angle relationship. Absolute explosive torque-angle relationship exhibited higher torques at mid-range knee joint angles in a similar manner to maximal strength, whilst the ability to explosively express the available torque (i.e. relative to maximal strength) revealed only subtle differences between joint angles. Agonist neuromuscular activation showed increases from extended to flexed positions during both maximum and explosive contractions (at all time points; ~6% to ~34%) and evoked contractile properties presented opposite patterns with twitch torque increasing (~5% to ~30%) and octet torque decreasing (~2% to ~14%) with knee flexion. Finally, after 4 weeks of RT at a 65° knee-joint angle evidence of joint angle specificity was provided from both within-group (greater gains at 3 angles than others) and between-group evidence (greater gains at 2 angles than others) for maximal strength but not for explosive strength and neuromuscular activation. In summary, this thesis demonstrated: (1) higher strength values at middle knee-joint positions than more flexed and/or extended positions during maximal and explosive contractions; (2) how agonist neuromuscular activation contributes to the beforementioned changes in strength; (3) how muscle contractile properties contribute to the explosive strength across knee-joint angles; and finally (4) that joint angle specificity has a neural basis.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
Brazil, Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).