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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 9, pp 2313–2322 | Cite as

Can muscle shortening alone, explain the energy cost of muscle contraction in vivo?

  • Jared R. Fletcher
  • Erik M. Groves
  • Ted R. Pfister
  • Brian R. MacIntoshEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

Decreased whole-body energy cost of running has been associated with an increased Achilles tendon stiffness. It is usually assumed that this lower energy cost can be attributed to less muscle fascicle shortening with a stiffer tendon. Increased fiber shortening is an important determinant of muscle energetics in vitro. However, other factors, like increased muscle activation may be important when considering whole muscle energetics in vivo.

Methods

To determine the effects of a small additional muscle shortening on skeletal muscle energy requirement, 19 subjects performed 30 plantarflexions on two separate occasions: isometric (ISO) and isokinetic (KIN, 6.98 rad s–1), each with a target of 50 % of maximum isometric torque. Medial gastrocnemius muscle fascicle length (FL) was measured by ultrasound and rate of oxyhemoglobin (HbO2) desaturation was measured during blood flow occlusion using near-infrared spectroscopy.

Results

KIN resulted in significantly greater muscle shortening (23.8 ± 1.3 mm) than ISO (18.3 ± 1.0 mm, p < 0.001, mean ± SEM), and greater shortening velocity (KIN = 2.5 ± 0.3 FL s–1, ISO = 1.1 ± 0.1 FL s–1, p < 0.001). Rate of HbO2 desaturation was 19 ± 7 %, greater in KIN than ISO (p < 0.01), despite 19 ± 2 % lower mean torque (p < 0.001) and 9.8 ± 1.6 Nm s lower mean impulse per contraction (p < 0.001) in KIN compared to ISO. Root mean square for EMG was significantly greater (p < 0.05) during KIN (73 ± 3 %) than during ISO (63 ± 2 %).

Conclusion

These results illustrate that muscle energy requirement is greater when muscle fascicle shortening and/or velocity of shortening is increased, and suggest that greater activation contributes to that increased energy requirement.

Keywords

Ultrasound Near-infrared spectroscopy Medial gastrocnemius Achilles tendon Triceps surae 

Abbreviations

AT

Achilles tendon

dL

Fascicle-aponeurosis displacement

dϴ

Ankle joint displacement

EC

Energy cost

EMG

Electromyography

F

Force

FL

Fascicle length

HHbO2

Deoxyhemoglobin

HbO2

Oxyhemoglobin

ISO

Isometric

KIN

Isokinetic

LG

Lateral gastrocnemius

MC

Corrected moment

MM

Measured moment

MA

Moment arm

MG

Medial gastrocnemius

MVC

Maximal voluntary contraction

NIRS

Near-infrared spectroscopy

RMS

Root mean square

SOL

Soleus

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no commercial involvement which may bias the process of data collection, reporting and/or interpretation.

Ethical standard

The authors declare that the experiments comply with current Canadian laws and all experimental procedures were approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jared R. Fletcher
    • 1
  • Erik M. Groves
    • 1
  • Ted R. Pfister
    • 1
  • Brian R. MacIntosh
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of KinesiologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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