Force enhancement following muscle stretching and force depression following muscle shortening are well-accepted properties of skeletal muscle contraction. However, the factors contributing to force enhancement/depression remain a matter of debate. In addition to factors on the fiber or sarcomere level, fiber length and angle of pennation affect the force during voluntary isometric contractions in whole muscles. Therefore, we hypothesized that differences in fiber lengths and angles of pennation between force-enhanced/depressed and reference states may contribute to force enhancement/depression during voluntary contractions. The purpose of this study was to test this hypothesis. Twelve subjects participated in this study, and force enhancement/depression was measured in human tibialis anterior. Fiber lengths and angles of pennation were quantified using ultrasound imaging. Neither fiber lengths nor angles of pennation were found to differ between the isometric reference contractions and any of the force-enhanced or force-depressed conditions. Therefore, we rejected our hypothesis and concluded that differences in fiber lengths or angles of pennation do not contribute to the observed force enhancement/depression in human tibialis anterior, and speculate that this result is likely true for other muscles too.
Markus Tilp, Simon Steib, Gudrun Schappacher-Tilp, and Walter Herzog
Walter Herzog, Timothy Koh, Evelyne Hasler, and Tim Leonard
We hypothesize that the neuromuscular system is designed to function effectively in accomplishing everyday movement tasks. Since everyday movement tasks may vary substantially in terms of speed and resistance, we speculate that agonistic muscles contribute differently to varying movement tasks such that the mechanical, structural, and physiological properties of the system are optimized at all times. We further hypothesize that a mechanical perturbation to the musculoskeletal system, such as the loss of an important joint ligament or the change of a muscle’s line of action, causes an adaptation of the system aimed at reestablishing effective function. Here. we demonstrate how the specificity of the cat ankle extensors is used to accommodate different locomotor tasks. We then illustrate how the loss of an important ligament in the cat knee leads to neuromuscular adaptation. Finally, we discuss the adaptability of skeletal muscle following an intervention that changes a muscle’s line of action, moment arm, and excursion.
Walter Herzog, Timothy R. Leonard, Venus Joumaa, and Ashi Mehta
According to the cross-bridge theory, the steady-state isometric force of a muscle is given by the amount of actin–myosin filament overlap. However, it has been known for more than half a century that steady-state forces depend crucially on contractile history. Here, we examine history-dependent steady-state force production in view of the cross-bridge theory, available experimental evidence, and existing explanations for this phenomenon. This is done on various structural levels, ranging from the intact muscle to the myofibrillar and isolated contractile protein level, so that advantages and limitations of the various preparations can be fully exploited and overcome. Based on experimental evidence, we conclude that steady-state force following active muscle stretching is enhanced, and this enhancement has a passive and an active component. The active component is associated with the cross-bridge kinetics, and the passive component is associated with a calcium-dependent increase in titin stiffness.
Esther Suter, Walter Herzog, Kelly De Souza, and Robert Bray
The present study was aimed at determining muscle inhibition (MI) and knee extensor moments in 42 subjects with unilateral anterior knee pain syndrome. The results were compared to a normal, healthy population with no history of knee injury. Also, the effects of 1 week of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) on MI and knee extensor moments were tested in a randomized controlled trial. At baseline, the involved leg showed significantly higher MI than the noninvolved leg. In both legs, MI was significantly higher and knee extensor moments lower than the corresponding values of the nonimpaired subjects. There was a direct relationship between knee pain during testing and the extent of MI. Higher MI, in turn, was associated with lower knee extensor moments. The study demonstrated significant MI in the quadriceps muscles of the involved and noninvolved legs of subjects with unilateral anterior knee pain syndrome. The results indicate that the noninvolved leg cannot be considered a normal control for a contralateral injury. NSAIDs did not affect MI or knee extensor moments, despite significantly reducing pain. This finding suggests that factors other than pain are responsible for the MI observed in this specific subject population, or that after removal of pain, more time is required to fully restore muscle function.
Seong-won Han, Andrew Sawatsky, Azim Jinha, and Walter Herzog
Vastus medialis (VM) weakness is thought to alter patellar tracking, thereby changing the loading of the patellofemoral joint (PFJ), resulting in patellofemoral pain. However, it is challenging to measure VM force and weakness in human studies, nor is it possible to measure the associated mechanical changes in the PFJ. To obtain fundamental insight into VM weakness and its effects on PFJ mechanics, the authors determined PFJ loading in the presence of experimentally simulated VM weakness. Skeletally mature New Zealand White rabbits were used (n = 6), and the vastus lateralis, VM, and rectus femoris were stimulated individually through 3 custom-built nerve cuff electrodes. Muscle torque and PFJ pressure distribution were measured while activating all muscles simultaneously, or when the vastus lateralis and rectus femoris were activated, while VM was not, to simulate a quadriceps muscle strength imbalance. For a given muscular joint torque, peak pressures were greater and joint contact areas were smaller when simulating VM weakness compared with the condition where all muscles were activated simultaneously. The results in the rabbit model support that VM weakness results in altered PFJ loading, which may cause patellofemoral pain, often associated with a strength imbalance of the knee extensor muscle group.
Manuel Hulliger, Scott J. Day, Antonio Guimaraes, Walter Herzog, and Yuan-Ting Zhang
The experimental simulation method was based upon the separate activation of up to 10 small groups of motor units (MU) in an acute nerve-muscle preparation. The investigator was able to precisely control and systematically alter the features of MU pool activation strategies. No implicit assumptions were made regarding MU properties. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the validity of this method. Three criteria were formulated and found to be satisfied: First, in the time domain, visual and audio displays of simulated EMG were indistinguishable from physiological EMG. Secondly, in the frequency domain, power spectra of simulated EMG revealed the typical features of EMG recorded during voluntary activation in the cat. Thirdly, the well-known mono-tonic relationship between EMG magnitude and force was readily reproduced, alüiough strictly linear relations were not found. In addition. the relationship between the pool's ensemble activation rate and EMG magnitude showed distinct gain compression, mostly attributable to signal cancellation.
Bruno Manfredini Baroni, Jeam Marcel Geremia, Rodrigo Rodrigues, Marcelo Krás Borges, Azim Jinha, Walter Herzog, and Marco Aurélio Vaz
It is not known if a physically active lifestyle, without systematic training, is sufficient to combat age-related muscle and strength loss. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate if the maintenance of a physically active lifestyle prevents muscle impairments due to aging. To address this issue, we evaluated 33 healthy men with similar physical activity levels (IPAQ = 2) across a large range of ages. Functional (torque-angle and torque-velocity relations) and morphological (vastus lateralis muscle architecture) properties of the knee extensor muscles were assessed and compared between three age groups: young adults (30 ± 6 y), middle-aged subjects (50 ± 7 y) and elderly subjects (69 ± 5 y). Isometric peak torques were significantly lower (30% to 36%) in elderly group subjects compared with the young adults. Concentric peak torques were significantly lower in the middle aged (18% to 32%) and elderly group (40% to 53%) compared with the young adults. Vastus lateralis thickness and fascicles lengths were significantly smaller in the elderly group subjects (15.8 ± 3.9 mm; 99.1 ± 25.8 mm) compared with the young adults (19.8 ± 3.6 mm; 152.1 ± 42.0 mm). These findings suggest that a physically active lifestyle, without systematic training, is not sufficient to avoid loss of strength and muscle mass with aging.