European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 110, Issue 5, pp 1037–1046 | Cite as

Changes in tendon stiffness and running economy in highly trained distance runners

  • Jared R. Fletcher
  • Shane P. Esau
  • Brian R. MacIntoshEmail author
Original Article


The purpose of this study was to determine if changes in triceps-surae tendon stiffness (TST K) could affect running economy (RE) in highly trained distance runners. The intent was to induce increased TST K in a subgroup of runners by an added isometric training program. If TST K is a primary determinant of RE, then the energy cost of running (EC) should decrease in the trained subjects. EC was measured via open-circuit spirometry in 12 highly trained male distance runners, and TST K was measured using ultrasonography and dynamometry. Runners were randomly assigned to either a training or control group. The training group performed 4 × 20 s isometric contractions at 80% of maximum voluntary plantarflexion moment three times per week for 8 weeks. All subjects (mean \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \max } \) = 67.4 ± 4.6 ml kg−1 min−1) continued their usual training for running. TST K was measured every 2 weeks. EC was measured in both training and control groups before and after the 8 weeks at three submaximal velocities, corresponding to 75, 85 and 95% of the speed at lactate threshold (sLT). Isometric training did neither result in a mean increase in TST K (0.9 ± 25.8%) nor a mean improvement in RE (0.1 ± 3.6%); however, there was a significant relationship (r 2 = 0.43, p = 0.02) between the change in TST K and change in EC, regardless of the assigned group. It was concluded that TST K and EC are somewhat labile and change together.


Ultrasound imaging Lactate threshold Tendon compliance Oxygen uptake 



The authors would like to thank NSERC Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation of Canada for financial support. They also thank the subjects participating in this study for their dedication and cooperation. Adamantios Arampatzis and his students are also acknowledged for spending the time to demonstrate the use of ultrasound imaging for quantitative evaluation of muscle fiber orientation and tendon translation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jared R. Fletcher
    • 1
  • Shane P. Esau
    • 1
  • Brian R. MacIntosh
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of KinesiologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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