Contractile properties of the human triceps surae muscle during simulated weightlessness

  • Yuri Koryak
Original Article


The effect of a 120-day period of bed rest on the mechanical properties of human triceps surae muscle was studied in a group of male volunteers (n = 6, mean age 38 years). The results shows that the contractile properties of skeletal muscle in response to disuse change considerably. Time to isometric peak tension of the triceps surae muscle increased from 120 (SEM 3.0) ms to 136 (SEM 2.9) ms (P < 0.01), half relaxation time from 92 (SEM 2.1) ms to 100 (SEM 1.6) ms (P < 0.05) and total contraction time from 440 (SEM 9.9) ms to 540 (SEM 18.7) ms (P < 0.001). Isometric twitch force (Ft) decreased by a mean of 36.7% (P < 0.05), maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and maximal force (Fmax) by a mean of 45.5% and 33.7%, respectively (P < 0.05-0.01). The valueFmax:Ft ratio increased by 3.6% (nonsignificant). The difference betweenFmax and MVC, expressed as a percentage ofFmax and referred to as force deficiency, has also been calculated. Force deficit increased by a mean of 60% (P < 0.001) after bed rest. Force-velocity properties of the triceps surae muscle calculated according to an absolute scale of voluntary and electrically evoked contraction development decreased considerably. The calculations of the same properties on a relative scale did not differ substantially from the initial physiological state. The results would suggest that muscle disuse is associated with both atrophy and a reduction in contractility in the development ofFmax and decreased central (motor) drive. The change in the triceps surae muscle contractile velocity properties may indicate changes in the kinetically active state in the muscles.

Key words

Skeletal muscle Isometric contractions Evoked contractions Hypokinesia/hypodynamia 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bernsxtein NA (1966) Assays on motion and activity physiology. Medicine, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  2. Booth FM (1982) Effect of limb immobilization on skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol 52:1113–1118Google Scholar
  3. Booth FW, Seider MJ (1979) Early changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis after limb immobilization of rats. J Appl Physiol 47:974–977Google Scholar
  4. Boyes G, Johnson I (1979) Muscle fibre composition of rat vastus intermedius following immobilization at different muscle lengths. Pflügers Arch 381:195–200Google Scholar
  5. Bruce-Gregorios J, Chow SM (1984) Core myofibers and related alterations induced in rats soleus muscle by immobilization in shortened position. J Neurol Sci 63:267–275Google Scholar
  6. Convertino VA, Bisson R, Bates R, Goldwater D, Sandler H (1981) Effects of antiorthostatic bedrest on the cardiorespiratory responses to exercise. Aviat Space Environ Med 52:251–255Google Scholar
  7. Davies CJF, Montgomery A (1977) The effect of prolonged inactivity upon the contraction characteristics of fast and slow mammalian twitch muscle. J Physiol 270:581–594Google Scholar
  8. Davies CTM, Rutherford IC, Thomas DO (1987) Electrically evoked contractions of the triceps surae during and following 21 days of voluntary leg immobilization. Eur J Appl Physiol, 56:306–312Google Scholar
  9. Desplanches D, Mayet MH, Sempore B, Flandrois R (1987) Structural and functional responses to prolonged hindlimb suspension in rat muscle. J Appl Physiol 63:558–563Google Scholar
  10. Drachman DB, Johnston DM (1973) Development of a mammalian fast muscle: dynamic and biochemical properties correlated. J Physiol 234:29–42Google Scholar
  11. Drosdova VN (1964) Consequences of full hind limb deafferentation in puppies and dogs. In: Gazenko OG (ed) Mechanisms of compensatory adaptations. Nauka, Moscow, pp 99–103Google Scholar
  12. Duchateau J, L Montigny de, Haunaut K (1988) The effects of disuse on muscle contraction in humans. Arch Int Physiol Biochim 96:13–14Google Scholar
  13. Farkas GA, Roussos C (1983) Diaphragm in emphysematous hamsters: sarcomer adaptability. J Appl Physiol 54:1635–1640Google Scholar
  14. Fuglsang-Frederiksen A, Scheel U (1978) Transient decrease in number of motor units after immobilization in man. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 41:924–929Google Scholar
  15. Gazenko OG, Egorov AD (1981) Main results of medical researches performed during long-term piloting flights aboard the orbital complex “Salyut-6” — “Soyuz” -“Progress”. In: Ischlinski A (ed) Scientific readings on aviation and astronautics. Medicine, Moscow, pp 122–137Google Scholar
  16. Genin AM, Sorokin PA (1969) A prolonged limitation of mobility as a model of weightlessness influence on human organism. In: Gazenko OG (ed) The problems of space biology. Nauka, Moscow, pp 9–16Google Scholar
  17. Graybiel A, Clark B (1961) Symptoms resulting from prolonged immersion in water: problem of zero G asthenia. Aerospace Med 32:181–196Google Scholar
  18. Hikida RS, Gollnick PD, Dudley GA, Convertino VA, Buchanan P (1989) Structural and metabolic characteristics of human skeletal muscle following 30 days of simulated microgravity. Aviat Space Environ Med 60:664–670Google Scholar
  19. Johnson MA, Polgar J, Weightman D, Appleton D (1973) Data on the distribution of fibre types in thirty-six human muscles. An autopsy study. J Neurol Sci 18:111–129Google Scholar
  20. Jokl P, Konstadt S (1983) Effect of limb immobilization on muscle function and protein composition. Clin Orthop 174:222–228Google Scholar
  21. Josephson RK (1975) Extensive and intensive factors determining the performance of striated muscle. J Exp Zool 194:135–154Google Scholar
  22. Koryak YA (1985) The research of velocity-strength properties of human muscular apparatus. In: Karazhanov B (ed) Reserved possibility of sportsmen organism. Academic Press, Alma-Ata, pp 86–97Google Scholar
  23. Kots YAM, Absalyamov TM, Zorin VP, Koryak Y, Kuznetzov SP, Sin LD (1976) Modification of the tendometric method measuring a single human muscles response the force. Hum Physiol 2:1046–1048Google Scholar
  24. Kozlovskaya IB, Aslanoya IF, Kirenskaya AV (1986) The effect of support unloading in characteristics of motor control systems activity. In: Gidikov A (ed) Motor control. Pergamon Press, New York, pp 149–153Google Scholar
  25. LeBlanc A, Marsh C, Avans H, Johnson P, Schneider V, Jhingran S (1985) Bone and muscle atrophy with suspension of the rat. J Appl Physiol 58:1669–1675Google Scholar
  26. MacDougall JD, Elder GCB, Sale DG, Moroz JR, Sutton JR (1980) Effects of strength training and immobilization on human muscle fibers. Eur J Appl Physiol 43:25–34Google Scholar
  27. Magnus R (1924) Korpersfellung. Springer Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Maier A, Crockett JL, Simpson DR, Saubert CWIV, Edgerton VR (1976) Properties of immobilized guinea pig hindlimb muscles. Am J Physiol 231:1520–1526.Google Scholar
  29. McDonagh MJN, Daries CTM (1984) Adaptive response of mammalian skeletal muscle to exercise with high loads. Eur J Appl Physiol 52:139–155Google Scholar
  30. Morrison PR, Montgomery JA, Wong TS, Booth FW (1987) Cytchrome c protein-synthesis rates and mRNA contents during atrophy and recovery in skeletal muscle. Biochem J 241:257–263Google Scholar
  31. Oganov VS, Potapov AN (1976) On the mechanisms of changes in skeletal muscles in the weightless environment. In: Guba F, Marechal G, Takacs O (eds) Life science and space research. Academic Berlin, pp 137–143Google Scholar
  32. Rapcak M, Oganov VS, Szoor A, Skuratova SA, Szilagyi T, Takacs O (1983) Effect of weightlessness on the function of rat skeletal muscles on the biosatellite “Cosmos-1129”. Acta Physiol Hung 62:225–228Google Scholar
  33. Roy RR, Sacks RD, Baldwin KM, Short M, Edgerton V (1984) Interrelationships of contraction time,V max and myosin ATP-ase after spinal transection. J Appl Physiol 56:1594–1601Google Scholar
  34. Sale DG, McComas AJ, MacDougall JD, Upton ARM (1982) Neuromuscular adaptation in human thenar muscles following strength training and immobilization. J Appl Physiol 53:419–424Google Scholar
  35. Salviati G, Sorenson MM, Eastwood AB (1982) Calcium accumulation by the sarcoplasmic in two populations of chemically skinned human muscle fibers. J Gen Physiol 79:603–632Google Scholar
  36. Sandler H, Vernikos J (1986) Inactivity: physiological effects. Academic Press, Orlando, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  37. Sargeant AJ, Davies CTM, Edwards RHT, Maunder C, Young A (1977) Functional and structural changes after disuse of human muscle. Clin Sci Mol Med 52:337–342Google Scholar
  38. Sica REP, McComas AJJ (1971) Fast and slow twitch in a human muscle. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 34:113–120Google Scholar
  39. Simard C, Lacaille M (1988) Contractile and histochemical properties of young and old medial gastrocnemius muscle after suspension hypokinesia/hypodynamia. Mech Ageing Dev 44:103–114Google Scholar
  40. Simons RM, Jewell BR (1974) Mechanics and models of muscular contraction. Rec Adv Physiol 9:87–147Google Scholar
  41. Steffen JM, Musacchia XJ (1984) Effect of hypokinesia and hypodynamia on protein, RNA, and DNA in rat hindlimb muscles. Am J Physiol 247:R728-R732Google Scholar
  42. St.-Pierre D, Gardiner PF (1987) Effect of immobilization and exercise on muscle function: review. Physiother Can 39:24–36Google Scholar
  43. Tabary TC, Tabary C, Tardieu C, Tardieu G, Goldspink G (1972) Physiological and structural changes in the cat soleus muscles due to immobilization at different lengths by plaster casts. J Physiol 224:231–244Google Scholar
  44. Tate CA, Bick RJ, Myers TD, Pitts BJR, van Winkle W, Entman ML (1983) Alteration of sarcoplasmic reticulum after denervation of chicken pectoralis muscle. Biochem J 210:339–344Google Scholar
  45. Templeton GH, Padalino M, Maton J, Glasberg M, Silver P, DeMartino G, Leconey T, Klug G, Hagler H, Sutko JL (1984) Influence of suspension hypokinesia on rat soleus muscle. J Appl Physiol 55:278–286Google Scholar
  46. Thomason DB, Biggs RB, Booth FW (1989) Protein metabolism and β-myosin heavy-chain mRNA in unweighted soleus muscle. Am J Physiol 257:R300-R305Google Scholar
  47. Vrbova G (1963) The effect of motoneurone activity on the speed of contraction of striated muscle. J Physiol 169:513–526Google Scholar
  48. Watson PA, Stein JP, Booth FW (1984) Changes in action synthesis and α-actin-mRNA content in rat muscle during immobilization. Am J Physiol 247:C39-C44Google Scholar
  49. White MJ, Davies CTM, Brooksy P (1984) The effects of short-term voluntary immobilization on the contraction properties of the human triceps surae. Q J Exp Physiol 69:685–691Google Scholar
  50. Winiarski AM, Roy RR, Alford EK, Chiang PC, Edgerton VR (1987) Mechanical properties of rat skeletal muscle after limb suspension. Exp Neurol 96:650–660Google Scholar
  51. Witzmann FA, Kim DH, Fitts RH (1982a) Recovery time course in contractile function of fast and slow skeletal muscle after hindlimb immobilization. J Appl Physiol 52:677–682Google Scholar
  52. Witzmann FA, Kim DH, Fitts RH (1982b) Hindlimb immobilization: length-tension and contractile properties of skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol 53:335–345Google Scholar
  53. Young A, Hughes I, Round JM, Edwards RHT (1982) The effect of knee injury on the number of muscle fibres in the human quadriceps femoris. Cli Sci Mol Med 62:227–234Google Scholar
  54. Zatsiorky VM, Sirota MY, Prilutsky BI, Rajtsin LM, Seluyanov VN, Ghugunova LG (1985) Biomechanics of the human body and motions after a 120-day antiorthostatic hypokinesia. Kosm Biol Aviakosm Med 19:23–27Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuri Koryak
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurophysiology Laboratory, Institute of Biomedical ProblemsMinistry of Public HealthMoscow D-7Russia

Personalised recommendations