Movement control responsible for generation of maximal hand velocity was studied on the example of horizontal arm swing that is a component of various sports activities. The movement was performed with the nondominant arm in similarity with the baseball bat swing. The task was to generate maximum hand velocity at a target. The movement included trunk long-axis rotation and horizontal shoulder and elbow extension. Kinematics and torque analyses were performed to study the organization of fastest movements and to compare trials representing the best and worst performance in each subject. Results revealed complex control strategy, with the trunk, shoulder, and elbow playing unique roles in generation of maximal hand velocity. The trunk provided a crucial contribution, directly, rotating the entire arm, and indirectly, exerting interaction torque that caused swift elbow extension. The major role of the shoulder was to transfer the mechanical effect of trunk motion to the elbow. However, the shoulder became the primary motion generator when the trunk reached its limits of rotation, revealing sequential organization of control. The role of the elbow was to maximally comply with passive influence of proximal joints. The findings are discussed in light of the leading joint hypothesis that offers a straightforward interpretation of control of horizontal arm swing as well as practically efficient recommendations for increases in movement speed. The revealed role of intersegmental dynamics in production of high movement speed suggests that movement slowness characteristic for some motor disorders may be partially a compensatory strategy that facilitates regulation of interaction torque.
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