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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 6, pp 1605–1615 | Cite as

Exercise-induced changes in triceps surae tendon stiffness and muscle strength affect running economy in humans

  • Kirsten Albracht
  • Adamantios Arampatzis
Original Article

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether increased tendon-aponeurosis stiffness and contractile strength of the triceps surae (TS) muscle-tendon units induced by resistance training would affect running economy. Therefore, an exercise group (EG, n = 13) performed a 14-week exercise program, while the control group (CG, n = 13) did not change their training. Maximum isometric voluntary contractile strength and TS tendon-aponeurosis stiffness, running kinematics and fascicle length of the gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle during running were analyzed. Furthermore, running economy was determined by measuring the rate of oxygen consumption at two running velocities (3.0, 3.5 ms−1). The intervention resulted in a ∼7 % increase in maximum plantarflexion muscle strength and a ∼16 % increase in TS tendon-aponeurosis stiffness. The EG showed a significant ∼4 % reduction in the rate of oxygen consumption and energy cost, indicating a significant increase in running economy, while the CG showed no changes. Neither kinematics nor fascicle length and elongation of the series-elastic element (SEE) during running were affected by the intervention. The unaffected SEE elongation of the GM during the stance phase of running, in spite of a higher tendon-aponeurosis stiffness, is indicative of greater energy storage and return and a redistribution of muscular output within the lower extremities while running after the intervention, which might explain the improved running economy.

Keywords

Running economy Tendon adaptation Fascicle behavior running Achilles tendon 

Abbreviations

C

Energy cost

CG

Control group

EG

Exercise group

EMA

Effective mechanical advantage

GM

Gastrocnemius medialis

GRF

Ground reaction force

lfl

Fascicle length

l0,fl

Reference fascicle length

lMTU

Length of the muscle-tendon unit

lSEE

Length of the series-elastic element

MTU

Muscle-tendon unit

MVC

Maximum voluntary contraction

PFA

Point of force application

RMS

Root mean square

SEM

Standard error of mean

SEE

Series elastic element

SD

Standard deviation

TS

Triceps surae

θ

Pennation angle

θ0

Reference pennation angle

\(\overline{v}_{\rm fl}\)

Average fascicle shortening velocity

vmax, fl

Maximum fascicle shortening velocity

\({\dot{V}{\rm O}}_{\rm 2,max}\)

Rate of oxygen consumption

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research has been supported by The Federal Institute of Sport Science (BISp), Germany.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biomechanics and OrthopaedicsGerman Sport UniversityCologneGermany
  2. 2.Department of Training and Movement Science, Centre of Sport Science and Sport MedicineHumboldt UniversityBerlinGermany

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