Age-related compensation: Neuromusculoskeletal capacity, reserve & movement objectives

Eline van der Kruk*, Anne K. Silverman, Louis Koizia, Peter Reilly, Michael Fertleman, Anthony M.J. Bull

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


The prevention, mitigation and treatment of movement impairments, ideally, requires early diagnosis or identification. As the human movement system has physiological and functional redundancy, movement limitations do not promptly arise at the onset of physical decline. A such, prediction of movement limitations is complex: it is unclear how much decline can be tolerated before movement limitations start. Currently, the term ‘homeostatic reserve’ or ‘physiological reserve’ is used to refer to the redundancy of the human biological system, but these terms do not describe the redundancy in the muscle architecture of the human body. The result of functional redundancy is compensation. Although compensation is an early predictor of movement limitations, clear definitions are lacking and the topic is underexposed in literature. The aim of this article is to provide a definition of compensation and emphasize its importance. Compensation is defined as an alteration in the movement trajectory and/or altering muscle recruitment to complete a movement task. Compensation for capacity is the result of a lack in neuromusculoskeletal reserve, where reserve is defined as the difference between the capacity (physiological abilities of the neuromusculoskeletal system) and the task demand. Compensation for movement objectives is a result of a shift in weighting of movement objectives, reflecting changing priorities. Studying compensation in biomechanics requires altered protocols in experimental set-ups, musculoskeletal models that are not reliant on prescribed movement, and inclusion of alternative movement objectives in optimal control theory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110385
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Frailty
  • Mobility impairments
  • Neuromusculoskeletal models
  • Optimal control theory
  • Redundancy
  • Rehabilitation


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