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
Annika Kruse, Christian Schranz, Martin Svehlik, and Markus Tilp
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of functional progressive resistance training (PRT) and high-intensity circuit training (HICT) on the mechano-morphological properties of the plantar flexor muscle-tendon unit in children with spastic cerebral palsy. Methods: Twenty-two children (12.8 [2.6] y old, Gross Motor Function Classification System levels I/II = 19/3) were randomly assigned to either a PRT group or an HICT group. The interventions consisted of functional lower limb exercises, which were performed at home 3 times per week for 8 weeks. Measurements at baseline, preintervention, postintervention, and follow-up were taken to assess ankle joint range of motion and the properties of the gastrocnemius medialis, vastus lateralis, rectus femoris, and Achilles tendon (eg, thickness, strength, stiffness). Results: Despite a nonsignificant increase in active torque in the HICT group, neither gastrocnemius medialis morphology nor Achilles tendon properties were significantly altered after the interventions. Vastus lateralis thickness increased following PRT only. Conclusions: Functional home-based strength training did not lead to significant changes at the muscular level in children with cerebral palsy. We therefore assume that a more specific stimulus of higher intensity combined with a longer training duration might be necessary to evoke changes in muscles and tendons in individuals with cerebral palsy.