Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 479–490 | Cite as

Human skeletal muscle: Phasic type of electrical stimulation increases its contractile speed

  • Renata Karba
  • Aneta Stefanovska
  • Srđan Đorđević


Skeletal muscles, exposed to a prolonged period of specific functional demands, respond adaptively. Electrical stimulation, when employed as a technique for subjecting selected muscles to altered use, enables precise entrainment of the pattern of functional activity. In this investigation, the vastus lateralis muscle in a group of volunteers was stimulated. The stimulation program typical of a phasic type of activity (high frequency, high current amplitude, short pulse duration) intermittently subjected the stimulated muscles to brief periods of intense activity, followed by relatively long pauses. The activation-relaxation time ratio chosen was 1 to 13. It was determined to prevent the muscles from fatiguing. The effects of the chronic stimulation program were established by measurements of the time course of contraction and relaxation and fatigue of the vastus lateralis muscle. Chronic phasic electrical stimulation increased the speed of muscle contraction by 15% while the fatigue characteristics remained unchanged.


Electric stimulation Skeletal muscle Contractile speed Muscle fatigue Phasic activity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Brown, M.D.; Cotter, M.A.; Hudlicka, O.; Vrbová, G. The effects of different patterns of muscle activity on capillary density, mechanical properties and structure of slow and fast rabbit muscles. Pflugers Arch. 361:241–250; 1976.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Buller, A.J.; Eccles, J.C.; Eccles, R.M. Interactions between motoneurones and muscles in respect of the characteristic speeds of their responses. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 156:417–439; 1960.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Burke, R.E. Motor unit types: Functional specializations in motor control. Trends Neurosci. 3:255–258; 1980.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Donselaar, Y.; Eerbeek, O.; Kernell, D.; Verhey, B.A. Fibre sizes and histochemical staining characteristics in normal and chronically stimulated fast muscle of cat. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 382:237–254; 1987.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Edgerton, V.R.; Smith, J.L.; Simpson, D.R. Muscle fibre type populations of human leg muscles. Histochem. J. 7:259–266; 1975.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Haekkinen, K.; Komi, P.V.; Alen, M. Effect of explosive type strength training on isometric force and relaxation-time, electromyographic and muscle fibre characteristics of leg extensor muscles. Acta Physiol. Scand. 125:587–600; 1985.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Henatsch, H.D.; Langer, H.H. Basic neurophysiology of motor skills in sport: A review. Int. J. Sports Med. 6:2–14; 1985.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Henneman, E.; Olson, C.B. Relations between structure and function in the design of skeletal muscles. J. Neurophysiol. 28:581–598; 1965.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hennig, R.; Lomo, T. Firing patterns of motor units in normal rats. Nature 314:164–166; 1985.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hennig, R.; Lomo, T. Effects of chronic stimulation on the size and speed of long-term denervated and innervated rat fast and slow skeletal muscles. Acta Physiol. Scand. 130:115–131; 1987.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hudlicka, O.; Brown, M.; Cotter, M; Smith, M.; Vrbová, G. The effect of long-term stimulation of fast muscles on their blood flow, metabolism and ability to withstand fatigue. Pflugers Arch. 369:141–149; 1977.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kernell, D.; Eerbeek, O.; Verhey, B.A.; Donselaar, Y. Effects of physiological amounts of high-and low-rate chronic stimulation on fast-twitch muscle of the cat hindlimb. I. Speed- and force-related properties. J. Neurophysiol. 58:598–613; 1987.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kernell, D.; Donselaar, Y.; Eerbeek, O. Effects of physiological amounts of high- and low-rate chronic stimulation on fast-twitch muscle of the cat hindlimb. II. Endurance-related properties. J. Neurophysiol. 58:614–627; 1987.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lomo, T.; Westgaard, R.H. Contractile properties of muscle: Control by pattern of muscle activity in the rat. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B187:99–103; 1974.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pette, D.; Muller, W.; Leisner, E.; Vrbová, G. Time dependent effects on contractile properties, fibre population, myosin light chains and enzymes of energy metabolism in intermittently and continuously stimulated fast twitch muscles of the rabbit. Pflugers Arch. 364:103–112; 1976.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Pette, D.; Ramirez, B.U.; Muller, W.; Simon, R.; Exner, G.U.; Hildebrand, R. Influence of intermittent long-term stimulation on contractile, histochemical and metabolic properties of fibre populations in fast and slow rabbit muscles. Pflugers Arch. 361:1–7; 1975.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Pette, D.; Smith, M.E.; Staudte, H.W.; Vrbová, G. Effects of long-term electrical stimulation on some contractile and metabolic characteristics of fast rabbit muscles. Pflugers Arch. 338:257–272; 1973.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pette, D.; Vrbová, G. Neural control of phenotypic expression in mammalian muscle fibers. Muscle Nerve 8:676–689; 1985.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Salmons, S. Functional adaptation in skeletal muscle. Trends Neurosci. 3:134–137; 1980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Salmons, S.; Sreter, F.A. Significance of impulse activity in the transformation of skeletal muscle type. Nature 263:30–34; 1976.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Salmons, S.; Vrbová, G. The influence of activity on some contractile characteristics of mammalian fast and slow muscles. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 201:535–549; 1969.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Staudte, H.W.; Exner, G.U.; Pette, D. Effects of short-term, high intensity (sprint) training on some contractile and metabolic characteristics of fast and slow muscle of the rat. Pflugers Arch. 344:159–168; 1973.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Vrbová, G. The effects of motor neuron activity on the speed of contraction of striated muscle. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 169:513–526; 1963.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Vrbová, G. Factors determining the speed of contraction of striated muscle. Physiological Society 25/26:17–18; 1966.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Pergamon Press plc 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renata Karba
    • 1
  • Aneta Stefanovska
    • 1
  • Srđan Đorđević
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Electrical and Computer EngineeringE. Kardelj UniversityLjubljanaYugoslavia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyE. Kardelj UniversityLjubljanaYugoslavia

Personalised recommendations