Sex differences in knee extensor torque control

Savanna Harrison, Nicholas C. Clark, Paul Ansdell, Jamie Pethick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is currently equivocal evidence regarding sex-related differences in measures of muscle force and torque control. To that end, we investigated sex differences in knee extensor muscle torque control, using both magnitude- and complexity-based measures, across contraction intensities typical of activities of daily living. 50 participants (25 male, median age [and interquartile range] 23.0 [20.0 – 33.0]; 25 female, median age [and interquartile range] 21.0 [20.0 – 40.5]) performed a series of intermittent isometric knee extensor contractions at 10, 20 and 40% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). Torque was measured in N·m and torque control was quantified according to the magnitude (standard deviation [SD], coefficient of variation [CV]) and complexity (approximate entropy [ApEn], detrended fluctuation analysis [DFA] α) of torque fluctuations. Males exhibited a significantly greater absolute magnitude (i.e., SD) of knee extensor torque fluctuations during contractions at 10% (P = 0.011), 20% (P = 0.002) and 40% MVC (P = 0.003), though no sex differences were evident when fluctuations were normalised to mean torque output (i.e., CV). Males exhibited significantly lower ApEn during contractions at 10% (P = 0.002) and 20% MVC (P = 0.024) and significantly greater DFA α during contractions at 10% (P = 0.003) and 20% MVC (P = 0.001). These data suggest sex differences in muscle torque control strategies and highlight the need to consider both the magnitude and complexity of torque fluctuations when examining sex differences in muscle force control.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102806
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Early online date2 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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