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Title: Ankle resistance with a unilateral soft exosuit increases plantarflexor effort during pushoff in unimpaired individuals
Abstract Background

Ankle-targeting resistance training for improving plantarflexion function during walking increases rehabilitation intensity, an important factor for motor recovery after stroke. However, understanding of the effects of resisting plantarflexion during stance on joint kinetics and muscle activity—key outcomes in evaluating its potential value in rehabilitation—remains limited. This initial study uses a unilateral exosuit that resists plantarflexion during mid-late stance in unimpaired individuals to test the hypotheses that when plantarflexion is resisted, individuals would (1) increase plantarflexor ankle torque and muscle activity locally at the resisted ipsilateral ankle, but (2) at higher forces, exhibit a generalized response that also uses the unresisted joints and limb. Further, we expected (3) short-term retention into gait immediately after removal of resistance.


Ten healthy young adults walked at 1.25 m s−1for four 10-min discrete bouts, each comprising baseline, exposure to active exosuit-applied resistance, and post-active sections. In each bout, a different force magnitude was applied based on individual baseline ankle torques. The peak resistance torque applied by the exosuit was 0.13 ± 0.01, 0.19 ± 0.01, 0.26 ± 0.02, and 0.32 ± 0.02 N m kg−1, in the LOW, MED, HIGH, and MAX bouts, respectively.


(1) Across all bouts, participants increased peak ipsilateral biological ankle torque by 0.13–0.25 N m kg−1(p < 0.001) during exosuit-applied resistance compared to corresponding baselines. Additionally, ipsilateral soleus activity during stance increased by 5.4–11.3% (p < 0.05) in all but the LOW bout. (2) In the HIGH and MAX bouts, vertical ground reaction force decreased on the ipsilateral limb while increasing on the contralateral limb (p < 0.01). Secondary analysis found that the force magnitude that maximized increases in biological ankle torque without significant changes in limb loading varied by subject. (3) Finally, peak ipsilateral plantarflexion angle increased significantly during post-exposure in the intermediate HIGH resistance bout (p < 0.05), which corresponded to the greatest average increase in soleus activity (p > 0.10).


Targeted resistance of ankle plantarflexion during stance by an exosuit consistently increased local ipsilateral plantarflexor effort during active resistance, but force magnitude will be an important parameter to tune for minimizing the involvement of the unresisted joints and limb during training.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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