This paper reviews the research findings regarding the force and length changes of the muscle-tendon complex during dynamic human movements, especially those using ultrasonography and computer simulation. The use of ultrasonography demonstrated that the tendinous structures of the muscle-tendon complex are compliant enough to influence the biomechanical behavior (length change, shortening velocity, and so on) of fascicles substantially. It was discussed that the fascicles are a force generator rather than a work generator; the tendinous structures function not only as an energy re-distributor but also as a power amplifier, and the interaction between fascicles and tendinous structures is essential for generating higher joint power outputs during the late pushoff phase in human vertical jumping. This phenomenon could be explained based on the force-length/velocity relationships of each element (contractile and series elastic elements) in the muscle-tendon complex during movements. Through computer simulation using a Hill-type muscle-tendon complex model, the benefit of making a countermovement was examined in relation to the compliance of the muscle-tendon complex and the length ratio between the contractile and series elastic elements. Also, the integral roles of the series elastic element were simulated in a cyclic human heel-raise exercise. It was suggested that the storage and reutilization of elastic energy by the tendinous structures play an important role in enhancing work output and movement efficiency in many sorts of human movements.
Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies,
Dept. of Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro, Tokyo 153-8902 Japan
Computational Biomechanics Unit, RIKEN, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198 Japan.