Mechanical Properties of Muscles

  • John C. Rothwell


Skeletal muscle is made up of long fibres, terminated at each end by tendinous material attached to the bone. These fibres are formed from a syncitium of cells whose walls fuse during development, and hence have many nuclei spread throughout their length. Groups of individual muscle fibres are gathered together into bundles called fascicles which are surrounded by a connective tissue sheath (Figure 2.1). The internal structure of the muscle fibre is quite complex. The main elements visible under the light microscope are the myofibrils. These run longitudinally throughout the fibre and constitute the contractile machinery of the muscle. Each myofibril is traversed by striations. Usually, the myofibrils are aligned so that the striations appear to be continuous right across the muscle fibre.


Muscle Length Myosin Head Contractile Element Myosin Filament Cross Bridge 
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References and Further Reading

Review Articles

  1. Eisenberg, E. and Greene, L.E. (1980) `The Relation of Muscle Biochemistry to Muscle Physiology’, Ann. Rev. Physiol., 42, pp. 293–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Gordon, A.M. (1982) `Muscle’ in T. Ruch and H. Patton (eds.) Physiology and Biophysics, vol. IV, Saunders, Philadelphia, pp. 170–260Google Scholar
  3. Hill, A.V. (1970) First and Last Experiments in Muscle Mechanisms, Cambridge University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Huxley, A.F. (1974) `Review Lecture. Muscular Contraction’, J. Physiol., 243, p. 1–43Google Scholar
  5. Partridge, L.D. and Benton, L.A. (1981) `Muscle, the Motor’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect. 1, vol. 2, part 1, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 43–106Google Scholar
  6. Pollack, G.H. (1983) `The Cross-bridge Theory’, Physiol. Rev., 63, pp. 1049–113Google Scholar
  7. Roberts, T.D.M. (1978) Neurophysiology of Postural Mechanisms,Butterworths, London, Chapters 2 and 10Google Scholar

Original Papers

  1. Bizzi, E., Accornero, N., Chappele, W. et al (1982) `Arm Trajectory Formation in Monkeys’, Exp. Brain Res., 46, pp. 139–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burke, R.E., Rudomin, P. and Zajac F.E. (1970) `Catch Property in Single Mammalian Motor Units’, Science, 168, pp. 122–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Day, B.L. and Marsden, C.D. (1982) `Accurate Repositioning of the Human Thumb Against Unpredictable Dynamic Loads is Dependent Upon Peripheral Feedback’, J. Physiol., 327, pp. 393–407Google Scholar
  4. Gordon, A.M., Huxley, A.F. and Julian, F.J. (1966) `The Variation in Isometric Tension with Sarcomere Length in Vertebrate Muscle Fibres’, J. Physiol., 184, pp. 170–92Google Scholar
  5. Hill, A.V. (1938) `The Heat of Shortening and the Dynamic Constants of Muscle’, Proc. Roy. Soc. B., 126, pp. 136–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Huxley, A.F. (1957) `Muscle Structure and Theories of Contraction’, Prog. Biophys. Chem., 7, pp. 255–318Google Scholar
  7. Huxley, A.F. and Niedergerke, R. (1954) `Structural Changes in Muscle During Contraction,’ Nature, 173, pp. 971–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Huxley, H.E. and Hanson, J. (1954) `Changes in the Cross-Striations of Muscle During Contraction and Stretch and Their Structural Interpretation’, Nature, 173, pp. 978–87Google Scholar
  9. Ismail, H.M. and Ranatunga, K.W. (1978) `Isometric Tension Development in a Human Skeletal Muscle in Relation to Its Working Range of Movement: The Length—Tension Relationship of Biceps Brachii Muscle’, Exp. Neurol., 62, pp. 595–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Joyce, G.C., Rack, P.M.H. and Westbury D.R. (1969) `The Mechanical Properties of Cat Soleus Muscle During Controlled Lengthening and Shortening Movements’, J. Physiol., 204, pp. 461–74Google Scholar
  11. Marsh, E., Sale, D., McComas, A.J. et al (1981) `Influence of Joint Position on Ankle Dorsiflexion in Humans’, J. Appl. Physiol., 51, pp. 160–7Google Scholar
  12. Polit, A. and Bizzi, E. (1978) `Processes Controlling Arm Movements in Monkeys’, Science, 201, pp. 1235–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Polit, A. and Bizzi, E. (1979) `Characteristics of Motor Programs Underlying Arm Movements in Monkey’, J. Neurophysiol., 42, pp. 187–94Google Scholar
  14. Rack, P.H.M. and Westbury, D.R. (1969) `The Effect of Length and Stimulus Rate on the Tension in the Isometric Cat Soleus Muscle’, J. Physiol., 204, pp. 443–60Google Scholar
  15. Rothwell, J.C., Traub, M.M., Day, B.L. et al (1982) `Manual Motor Performance in a Deafferented Man’, Brain, 105, pp. 515–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wilkie, D.R. (1950) `The Relation Between Muscle Force and Velocity in Human Muscle’, J. Physiol., 110, pp. 249–80Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John C. Rothwell 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Rothwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of LondonUK

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