We investigated the individual muscle contribution to arm motion to better understand the
complex muscular coordination underlying three-dimensional (3D) reaching tasks of the upper limb
(UL). The individual contributions of biceps, triceps, deltoid anterior, medius, posterior and pectoralis
major to the control of specific degrees of freedom (DOFs) were examined: Using a scaled
musculoskeletal model, the muscle excitations that reproduce the kinematics were calculated using
computed muscle control and a forward simulation was generated. During consequent perturbation
analyses, the muscle excitation of selected muscles was instantaneously increased and the resulting
effect on the specific DOF was studied to quantify the muscle contribution. The calculated muscle
contributions were compared to the responses elicited during electrical stimulation experiments.
Innovative in our findings is that muscle action during reaching clearly depended on the reaching
trajectory in 3D space. For the majority of the muscles, the magnitude of muscle action changed and
even reversed when reaching to different heights and widths. Furthermore, muscle effects on non
spanned joints were reported. Using a musculoskeletal model and forward simulation techniques, we
demonstrate individual position-dependent muscle contributions to 3D joint kinematics of the UL.