Repeated contractions affect the geometry of muscle and hence the force generated

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This study carried out by Costis Maganaris demonstrated how repeated contractions result in tendon creep – which by altering the geometry of human muscle changes the maximum force that is delivered.
Journal of Applied Physiology. 2002 Dec;93(6)

Abstract The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of repeated contractions on the geometry of human skeletal muscle. Six men performed two sets (sets A and B) of 10 repeated isometric plantarflexion contractions at 80% of the moment generated during plantarflexion maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), with a rest interval of 15 min between sets. By use of ultrasound, the geometry of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle was measured in the contractions of set A and the displacement of the MG tendon origin in the myotendinous junction was measured in the contractions of set B.

In the transition from the 1st to the 10th contractions, the fascicular length at 80% of MVC decreased from 34 +/- 4 (means +/- SD) to 30 +/- 3 mm (P < 0.001), the pennation angle increased from 35 +/- 3 to 42 +/- 3 degrees (P < 0.001), the myotendinous junction displacement increased from 5 +/- 3 to 10 +/- 3 mm (P < 0.001), and the average fascicular curvature remained constant (P > 0.05) at approximately 4.3 m(-1). No changes (P > 0.05) were found in fascicular length, pennation angle, and myotendinous junction displacement after the fifth contraction. Electrogoniometry showed that the ankle rotated by approximately 6.5 degrees during contraction, but no differences (P > 0.05) were obtained between contractions. The present results show that repeated contractions induce tendon creep, which substantially affects the geometry of the in-series contracting muscles, thus altering their potential for force and joint moment generation.

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