Antagonistic muscle pairs cannot be fully activated simultaneously, even with maximal effort, under conditions of voluntary co-contraction, and their muscular activity levels are always below those during agonist contraction with maximal voluntary effort (MVE). Whether the muscular activity level during the task has trainability remains unclear. The present study examined this issue by comparing the muscular activity level during maximal voluntary co-contraction for highly experienced bodybuilders, who frequently perform voluntary co-contraction in their training programs, with that for untrained individuals (nonathletes). The electromyograms (EMGs) of biceps brachii and triceps brachii muscles during maximal voluntary co-contraction of elbow flexors and extensors were recorded in 11 male bodybuilders and 10 nonathletes, and normalized to the values obtained during the MVE of agonist contraction for each of the corresponding muscles (% EMGMVE). The involuntary coactivation level in antagonist muscle during the MVE of agonist contraction was also calculated. In both muscles, % EMGMVE values during the co-contraction task for bodybuilders were significantly higher (P<0.01) than those for nonathletes (biceps brachii: 66±14% in bodybuilders vs. 46±13% in nonathletes, triceps brachii: 74±16% vs. 57±9%). There was a significant positive correlation between a length of bodybuilding experience and muscular activity level during the co-contraction task (r = 0.653, P = 0.03). Involuntary antagonist coactivation level during MVE of agonist contraction was not different between the two groups. The current result indicates that long-term participation in voluntary co-contraction training progressively enhances muscular activity during maximal voluntary co-contraction.
Maeo, S., Takahashi, T., Takai, Y., & Kanehisa, H. (2013). Trainability of muscular activity level during maximal voluntary co-contraction: Comparison between bodybuilders and nonathletes. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079486