The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of movement velocity (100 degrees x s(-1), 200 degrees x s(-1), 300 degees x s(-1), and 400 degrees x s(-1)) and joint position (0 degrees - 20 degrees [L0] 30 degrees - 50 degrees [L30], and 70 degrees - 90 degrees [L70] knee flexion) on reciprocal coactivation patterns of the medial and lateral hamstrings as determined by the amplitude and frequency spectrum of surface electromyography (SEMG). Thirteen female subjects (age = 22.7 +/- 2.1 years, mean height = 161.1 +/- 6.6 cm, mean weight = 63.5 +/- 5.8 kg) participated in the study. Bipolar surface electrodes were placed over the biceps femoris (BF) and medial hamstrings (MH) for determination of the root mean square (SEMGrms) and median frequency (SEMGmf) of the SEMG. Normalized SEMGrms values for the MH and BF were determined as a percentage of agonist SEMGrms activity for the same muscle during its agonist phase. Data were analyzed using separate 2 x 3 x 4 (muscle x position x angular velocity) repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). For SEMGrms, there were significant muscle (p < 0.01) and position (p < or = 0.0001) main effects. Post-hoc analyses indicated the BF displayed greater muscle amplitude than the MH and that there was greater muscle amplitude at the L0 position (as the knee approached terminal extension). No velocity effect was noted (p > 0.05). For SEMGmf there were muscle x position (p < or = 0.05) and muscle x position x velocity (p < or = 0.01) interaction effects. Post-hoc analyses indicated the BF displayed a higher frequency spectrum than the MH at the L0 position. Secondly, velocity affected the BF and MH frequency spectrum such that values for both the MH and BF were lowest at 200 degrees x s(-1) and highest at 300 degrees x s(-1) (BF) and 400 degrees x s(-1) (MH). Velocity had little impact on the frequency spectrum in the midrange of the ROM (L30 position). Higher SEMGrms and SEMGmf values for the BF could be explained by the locking or screw home mechanism of the knee, and a way in which the human motor control system provides the limb with a dynamic braking system to control both extension and lateral rotational forces during the final stage of knee extension. It would appear that the way in which the body performs this function is not only to increase the amplitude of BF muscle firing but also to shift toward the recruitment of more fast-twitch motor units.