Effect of pre-stretching muscle on fatigue

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European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;62(4):268-273

In activities such as running, many muscles of the lower extremities appear to be actively stretched before they are allowed to shorten. In this study we investigated the effect of an active pre-stretch on the fatigability of muscles. Thus muscle contractions were compared in which shortening was preceded by an active isometric phase or by an active stretch.

Rat medial gastrocnemius muscle-tendon complexes (with arrested blood flow) performed a series of ten repeated contractions (1.s-1) with either an active stretch or an isometric phase preceding the shortening. Contraction duration (0.45 s), and shortening duration (0.3 s), distance (6 mm) and velocity (20 mm.s-1) were the same in both types of contraction. Work output during the ten shortening phases was approximately 40% higher in the contractions with an active pre-stretch; in contrast, high-energy phosphate utilization was similar. Over the ten repeated contractions reduction of work output during the shortening phases of both types of contraction was similar in absolute terms (approx. 9.5 mJ). It is suggested that all the extra work performed during the shortening phases after a pre-stretch originated from sources other than cross-bridge cycling, which are hardly affected by fatigue. However, reduction of work output in relative terms, which is how the reduction is often expressed in voluntary exercise, was less after a pre-stretch (26% vs 32%), giving the impression of protection against fatigue by an active pre-stretch.

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