Influence of motor unit firing statistics on the median frequency of the EMG power spectrum

A. van Boxtel*, L. R.B. Schomaker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the EMG power spectrum during static fatiguing contractions are often attributed to changes in muscle fibre action potential conduction velocity. Mathematical models of the EMG power spectrum, which have been empirically confirmed, predict that under certain conditions a distinct maximum occurs in the low-frequency part of the spectrum, indicating the dominant firing rate of the motor units. The present study investigated the influence of this firing rate peak on the spectral changes during a static fatiguing contraction at 50% of maximum EMG amplitude in the frontalis and corrugator supercilii muscles. An exponential decrease of the median frequency (MF) of the EMG power spectrum was observed when the firing rate peak was absent. When the firing rate peak was present, an exaggerated decrease of MF in the beginning of the contraction was found, which was associated with an increase in firing rate peak magnitude. In later stages of the contraction, a partial recovery of MF occurred, concomitant with a decrease in firing rate peak magnitude. The influence of the firing rate peak on MF was also investigated during nonfatiguing contractions of the frontalis muscle at 20, 40, 60, and 80% of maximum EMG amplitude. A curvilinear relationship between MF and contraction strength was found, whether firing rate peaks were present or absent. The presence of firing rate peaks, however, was associated with a decrease in MF which was inversely related to contraction strength, due to the inverse relationship between firing rate peak magnitude and contraction strength.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-213
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1984


  • Contraction strength
  • EMG power spectral shift
  • Facial muscles
  • Muscle fibre conduction velocity
  • Muscular fatigue


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