Do muscles function as adaptable locomotor springs?
Stan L. Lindstedt1,*, Trude E. Reich1, Paul Keim1 and Paul C. LaStayo2
1Physiology and Functional Morphology Group, Department of Biological Sciences and 2Department of Physical
Therapy, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640, USA
Accepted 13 May 2002
During normal animal movements, the forces produced by the locomotor muscles may be greater than, equal to or less than the forces acting on those muscles, the consequences of which significantly affect both the maximum force produced and the energy consumed by the muscles.
Lengthening (eccentric) contractions result in the greatest muscle forces at the lowest relative energetic costs.
Eccentric contractions play a key role in storing elastic strain energy which, when recovered in subsequent contractions, has been shown to result in enhanced force, work or power outputs.
We present data that support the concept that this ability of muscle to store and recover elastic strain energy is an adaptable property of skeletal muscle. Further, we speculate that a crucial element in that muscle spring may be the protein titin.
It too seems to adapt to muscle use, and its stiffness seems to be ‘tuned’ to the frequency of normal muscle use.
Key words: elastic recoil, strain energy, eccentric, hopping, stride frequency, titin, muscle.