The physiological cross-sectional areas (CSAp) of the vastus lateralis (VL), vastus intermedius (VI), vastus medialis (VM) and rectus femoris (RF) were obtained, in vivo, from the reconstructed muscle volumes, angles of pennation and distance between tendons of six healthy male volunteers by nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In all subjects, the isometric maximum voluntary contraction strength (MVC) was measured at the optimum angle at which peak force occurred. The MVC developed at the ankle was 746.0 (SD 141.8) N and its tendon component (Ft) given by a mechanical advantage of 0.117 (SD 0.010), was 6.367 (SD 1.113) kN. To calculate the force acting along the fibres (Ff) of each muscle, Ft was divided by the cosine of the angle of pennation and multiplied for (CSAp · ΣCSAp−1), where ΣCSAp was the sum of CSAp of the four muscles. The resulting Ff values of VL, VI, VM and RF were: 1.452 (SD 0.531) kN, 1.997 (SD 0.187) kN, 1.914 (SD 0.827) kN, and 1.601 (SD 0.306) kN, respectively. The stress of each muscle was obtained by dividing these forces for the respective CSAp which was: 6.24 × 10−3 (SD 2.54 × 10−3) m2 for VL, 8.35 × 10−3 (SD 1.17 × 10−3) m2 for VI, 6.80 × 10−3 (SD 2.66 × 10−3) m2 for VM and 6.62 × 10−3 (SD 1.21 × 10−3) m2 for RE The mean value of stress of VL, VI, VM and RF was 250 (SD 19) kN m2; this value is in good agreement with data on animal muscle and those on human parallel-fibred muscle.
Force/CSA Muscle stress Specific tension Skeletal muscle strength MRI