BackgroundActive human body models (AHBM) consider musculoskeletal movement and joint stiffness via active muscle truss elements in the finite element (FE) codes in dynamic application. In the latest models, such as THUMS™ Version 5, nearly all human muscle groups are modeled in form of one-dimensional truss elements connecting each joint. While a lot of work has been done to improve the active and passive behavior of this 1D muscle system in the past, the volumetric muscle system of THUMS was modeled in a much more simplified way based on Post Mortem Human Subject (PMHS) test data. The stiffness changing effect of isometric contraction was hardly considered for the volumetric muscle system of whole human body models so far. While previous works considered this aspect for single muscles, the effect of a change in stiffness due to isometric contraction of volumetric muscles on the AHBM behavior and computation time is yet unknown.MethodsIn this study, a simplified frontal impact using the THUMS Version 5 AM50 occupant model was simulated. Key parameters to regulate muscle tissue stiffness of solid elements in THUMS were identified for the material model MAT_SIMPLIFIED_FOAM and different stiffness states were predefined for the buttock and thigh.ResultsDuring frontal crash, changes in muscle stiffness had an effect on the overall AHBM behavior including expected injury outcome. Changes in muscle stiffness for the thigh and pelvis, as well as for the entire human body model and for strain-rate-dependent stiffness definitions based on literature data had no significant effect on the computation time.DiscussionKinematics, peak impact force and stiffness changes were in general compliance with the literature data. However, different experimental setups had to be considered for comparison, as this topic has not been fully investigated experimentally in automotive applications in the past. Therefore, this study has limitations regarding validation of the frontal impact results.ConclusionVariations of default THUMS material model parameters allow an efficient change in stiffness of volumetric muscles for whole AHBM applications. The computation time is unaffected by altering muscle stiffness using the method suggested in this work. Due to a lack of validation data, the results of this work can only be validated with certain limitations. In future works, the default material models of THUMS could be replaced with recently published models to achieve a possibly more biofidelic muscle behavior, which would even allow a functional dependency of the 1D and 3D muscle systems. However, the effect on calculation time and model stability of these models is yet unknown and should be considered in future studies for efficient AHBM applications.