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

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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.

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Abbreviations

C :

Energy cost

CG:

Control group

EG:

Exercise group

EMA:

Effective mechanical advantage

GM:

Gastrocnemius medialis

GRF:

Ground reaction force

l fl :

Fascicle length

l 0,fl :

Reference fascicle length

l MTU :

Length of the muscle-tendon unit

l SEE :

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

θ 0 :

Reference pennation angle

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

Average fascicle shortening velocity

v max, fl :

Maximum fascicle shortening velocity

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

Rate of oxygen consumption

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to Adamantios Arampatzis.

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Communicated by Jean-René Lacour.

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Albracht, K., Arampatzis, A. Exercise-induced changes in triceps surae tendon stiffness and muscle strength affect running economy in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 113, 1605–1615 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-012-2585-4

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