Ankle and hip postural strategies defined by joint torques

C. F. Runge, C. L. Shupert, F. B. Horak, F. E. Zajac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


Previous studies have identified two discrete strategies for the control of posture in the sagittal plane based on EMG activations, body kinematics, and ground reaction forces. The ankle strategy was characterized by body sway resembling a single-segment-inverted pendulum and was elicited on flat support surfaces. In contrast, the hip strategy was characterized by body sway resembling a double-segment inverted pendulum divided at the hip and was elicited on short or compliant support surfaces. However, biomechanical optimization models have suggested that hip strategy should be observed in response to fast translations on a flat surface also, provided the feet are constrained to remain in contact with the floor and the knee is constrained to remain straight. The purpose of this study was to examine the experimental evidence for hip strategy in postural responses to backward translations of a flat support surface and to determine whether analyses of joint torques would provide evidence for two separate postural strategies. Normal subjects standing on a flat support surface were translated backward with a range of velocities from fast (55 cm/s) to slow (5 cm/s). EMG activations and joint kinematics showed pattern changes consistent with previous experimental descriptions of mixed hip and ankle strategy with increasing platform velocity. Joint torque analyses revealed the addition of a hip flexor torque to the ankle plantarflexor torque during fast translations. This finding indicates the addition of hip strategy to ankle strategy to produce a continuum of postural responses. Hip torque without accompanying ankle torque (pure hip strategy) was not observed. Although postural control strategies have previously been defined by how the body moves, we conclude that joint torques, which indicate how body movements are produced, are useful in defining postural control strategies. These results also illustrate how the biomechanics of the body can transform discrete control patterns into a continuum of postural corrections. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Ankle strategy
  • Hip strategy
  • Joint torque
  • Postural control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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