Theoretical work suggests that if the interpulse intervals ( IPIs ) of motor unit action potential trains ( MUAPTs ) are independently and normally distributed, then spectral analysis of the electromyogram could be a useful tool for studying rate modulation by virtue of the presence of a peak in the power spectrum at the average firing frequency of all active motor units. It is shown in this paper that IPIs need not be normally distributed, specifically that the results are very much the same if the IPIs are distributed according to a Gamma probability density function ( PDF ). Simulation of the electromyogram based on this theory proved the applicability of the method. Experimental results obtained for the masseter, biceps brachii and first dorsal interosseus (FDI) muscles, however, were in disagreement with both theory and simulation except for the biceps muscle at force levels up to 20% of the maximal force and for the masseter and FDI muscles in 1 out of 5 subjects. This indicates that the models for MUAPTs hitherto used might not be generally correct. Apart from this discrepancy, our results reveal differences between masseter and FDI muscles on the one hand and the biceps brachii on the other, which indicate that motor unit synchronisation is much more pronounced in the latter muscle.