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Short Communication: Pennation Angle Variability in Human Muscle

Benjamin W. Infantolino and John H. Challis

The pennated arrangement of muscle fibers has important implications for muscle function in vivo, but complex arrangement of muscle fascicles in whole muscle raises the question whether the arrangement of fascicles produce variations in pennation angle throughout muscle. The purpose of this study was to describe the variability in pennation angle observed throughout the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Two cadaveric muscles were scanned in a 14.1 tesla MRI unit. Muscles were divided into slices and pennation angle was measured in the same representative location throughout the muscle in each slice for the medial-lateral and anterior posterior-image planes. Data showed large nonuniform variation in pennation angles throughout the muscles. For example, for cadaver 2, pennation angle in 287 planes along the medial-lateral axis ranged from 3.2° to 22.6°, while for the anterior-posterior axis, in 237 planes it ranged from 3.1° to 24.5°. The nonnormal distribution of pennation angles along each axis suggests a more complex distribution of fascicles than is assumed when a single pennation angle is used to represent an entire muscle. This distribution indicates that a single pennation angle may not accurately describe the arrangement of muscle fascicles in whole muscle.

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The Force-Length Curves of the Human Rectus Femoris and Gastrocnemius Muscles in Vivo

Samantha L. Winter and John H. Challis

For a physiologically realistic joint range of motion and therefore range of muscle fiber lengths, only part of the whole muscle force-length curve can be used in vivo; that is, only a section of the force-length curve is expressed. Previous work has determined that the expressed section of the force-length curve for individual muscles can vary between subjects; however, the degree of intersubject variability is different for different muscles. This study determined the expressed section of both the rectus femoris and gastrocnemius—muscles with very different ratios of tendon slack length to muscle fiber optimum length—for 28 nonspecifically trained subjects to test the hypothesis that the value of this ratio affects the amount of variability in the expressed section. The force-length curves of the two muscles were reconstructed from moment-angle data using the method of Herzog & ter Keurs (1988). There was no relationship between the expressed sections of the force-length curve for the two muscles. Less variability was found in the expressed section of the gastrocnemius compared with the rectus femoris, supporting the hypothesis. The lack of relationship between the expressed sections of the two muscles has implications for motor control and for training muscle for rehabilitation.

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The Effect of Strength Shoes on Muscle Activity during Quiet Standing

Karl Frank, Richard V. Baratta, Moshe Solomonow, Mackie Shilstone, and Kevin Riché

The goal of this work was to study the effect of Strength Shoes on the activity of leg and postural muscles to gain insight into the mechanisms by which the shoes may improve athletic performance. Surface EMG signals were obtained from the tibialis anterior, medial gastrocnemius, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae of 18 healthy athletic subjects. The subjects stood quietly while wearing either normal athletic shoes or Strength Shoes. EMG root mean square value was compared in each muscle using trimmed paired t tests. Significant (p < .002) increases in EMG activity were found in the MG, TA, GM, and ES muscles when the subjects were wearing Strength Shoes as compared to normal shoes. These changes served to stiffen the ankle, counteracting the dorsiflexion moment created by the shoes, and to support an anterior leaning posture, which compensates for the anterior shift in center of pressure. No significant changes were detected in the activities of RF or BF muscles. Using Strength Shoes increased activity in the triceps surae complex and in other muscles mat support the changes in postural requirements caused by the anterior shift in center of pressure.

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Effect of an Eight-Week Ballroom Dancing Program on Muscle Architecture in Older Adult Females

Christina C.P. Cepeda, Angélica Lodovico, Neil Fowler, and André L.F. Rodacki

Aging is related to a progressive remodeling of the neuromuscular system, which includes muscle mass, strength, and power reductions. This study investigated the effect of an eight-week dance program on fascicle pennation angle, fascicle length, and thickness of the vastus lateralis (VL), tibialis anterior (TA), biceps femoris (BF), and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscles using ultrasound images. Thirty-four healthy older women were randomly assigned to either a dancing (DG: n = 19, 69.1 ± 6.5 years, 72.5 ± 11.7 kg) or control group (CG: n = 15, 71.5 ± 7.4 years, 70.9 ± 9.3 kg). After training, the DG showed greater (p < .05) thickness for VL (16%), TA (17%), BF (19%), and GM (15%); pennation angle for VL (21%), TA (23%), BF (21%), and GM (17%); and fascicle length for VL (11%), TA (12%), BF (10%), and GM (10%). These findings suggest that dance training was effective to change the lower limb muscle architecture in older female adults.

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Relationship between Knee Joint Torque, Velocity, and Muscle Activation: Considerations for Musculoskeletal Modeling

David Hawkins and Mark Smeulders

The purpose of this study was to determine if the Hill model, used to describe the force-velocity relationship for isolated tetanically stimulated muscle, could be modified and used to describe the torque-velocity behavior of the knee for maximally and submaximally stimulated quadriceps and hamstrings muscles. Fourteen subjects performed both knee flexion and extension movements at 100%, 70%, and 40% of maximum isometric effort. For each effort level, the knee was allowed to move against resistances equal to 75%, 50%, 25%, and 0% of the specified effort level. An electrogoniometer quantified knee angle. Knee velocity was determined by numerically differentiating the joint angle data. Torque-velocity-activation (or effort level) data were determined for each trial. Model parameters were determined to give the best fit to the data for each subject. Average parameter values were determined for each gender and for the entire group. The modified Hill-type model accurately described the relationship between torque, velocity, and muscle activation level for subject-specific parameters but not for parameters averaged across genders or the entire group.

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Balance Decrements Are Associated With Age-Related Muscle Property Changes

Christopher J. Hasson, Richard E.A. van Emmerik, and Graham E. Caldwell

In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of static and dynamic balance abilities was performed in young and older adults and regression analysis was used to test whether age-related variations in individual ankle muscle mechanical properties could explain differences in balance performance. The mechanical properties included estimates of the maximal isometric force capability, force-length, force-velocity, and series elastic properties of the dorsiflexors and individual plantarflexor muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). As expected, the older adults performed more poorly on most balance tasks. Muscular maximal isometric force, optimal fiber length, tendon slack length, and velocity-dependent force capabilities accounted for up to 60% of the age-related variation in performance on the static and dynamic balance tests. In general, the plantarflexors had a stronger predictive role than the dorsiflexors. Plantarflexor stiffness was strongly related to general balance performance, particularly in quiet stance; but this effect did not depend on age. Together, these results suggest that age-related differences in balance performance are explained in part by alterations in muscular mechanical properties.

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Potential Muscle Function during the Swing Phase of Stroke Gait

Debra G. George-Reichley and Jill S. Higginson

The understanding of individual muscle impairments that affect swing phase in stroke gait will lead to better rehabilitation strategies for this population. We used induced acceleration analysis to evaluate the potential each muscle has to accelerate the hip and knee joints of the swing limb, using kinematics from three stroke subjects and five healthy subjects. To determine the influence of altered limb position on muscle function, we augmented hip extension by 10° in swing phase for all subjects. We found that in early swing, healthy subjects had greater potential to accelerate the knee into flexion than stroke subjects, whereas stroke subjects had greater potential to accelerate the hip into flexion. Perturbing the hip flexion angle into greater extension increased the potential of biarticular muscles to flex the knee in swing phase. The potential of muscles to improve swing phase dynamics depends on the initial posture of the limb and highlights the importance of subject-specific evaluations in the design of appropriate therapeutic interventions.

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Lumbar Muscle Activity During Common Lifts: A Preliminary Study Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging

John M. Mayer, James E. Graves, Todd M. Manini, James L. Nuzzo, and Lori L. Ploutz-Snyder

The purpose of this preliminary study was to assess lumbar multifidus, erector spinae, and quadratus lum-borum muscle activity during lifts as measured by changes in transverse relaxation time (T2) from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Thirteen healthy adults performed dynamic squat, stoop, and asymmetric stoop lifts at a standard load, with each lift followed by MRI. Increase in T2 for the multifidus and erector spinae was greater for the stoop than squat. No difference in T2 increase was noted between the multifidus and erector spinae for the squat or stoop. Increase in T2 for the contralateral multifidus was less for the asymmetric stoop than stoop. Future research using MRI and other biomechanical techniques is needed to fully characterize lumbar muscle activity during lifts for various populations, settings, postures, and loads.

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Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Markers of Oxidative Stress But Not Muscle Soreness After Eccentric Exercise

Patrick Gray, Andrew Chappell, Alison McE Jenkinson, Frank Thies, and Stuart R. Gray

Due to the potential anti-inflammatory properties of fish-derived long chain n-3 fatty acids, it has been suggested that athletes should regularly consume fish oils—although evidence in support of this recommendation is not clear. While fish oils can positively modulate immune function, it remains possible that, due to their high number of double bonds, there may be concurrent increases in lipid peroxidation. The current study aims to investigate the effect of fish oil supplementation on exercise-induced markers of oxidative stress and muscle damage. Twenty males underwent a 6-week double-blind randomized placebo-controlled supplementation trial involving two groups (fish oil or placebo). After supplementation, participants undertook 200 repetitions of eccentric knee contractions. Blood samples were taken presupplementation, postsupplementation, immediately, 24, 48, and 72 hr postexercise and muscle soreness/maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) assessed. There were no differences in creatine kinase, protein carbonyls, endogenous DNA damage, muscle soreness or MVC between groups. Plasma thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) were lower (p < .05) at 48 and 72 hr post exercise and H2O2 stimulated DNA damage was lower (p < .05) immediately postexercise in the fish oil, compared with the control group. The current study demonstrates that fish oil supplementation reduces selected markers of oxidative stress after a single bout of eccentric exercise.

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Effects of a Prior Stretching of the Plantarflexor Muscles on the Capacity to Control Upright Stance Maintenance in Healthy Adults

Patrice Rougier, Cyril Burdet, and Nicolas Genthon

To assess whether prior stretching of a muscle can induce improved postural control, 15 healthy adults stood still upright with their eyes closed before and after a series of bilateral stretches of the triceps surae muscles. The analysis focused on the center of pressure (CP) and the vertical projection of the center of gravity (CGv) trajectories and their difference (CP – CGv). The prolonged stretching induced a forward shift of the mean position of the CGv. The frequency analysis showed a constancy of the amplitudes of both basic movements whereas an increased mean power frequency was seen for the CP – CGv movements. A fractional Brownian motion modeling of the trajectories indicates shortest time intervals and lower covered distances by the CGv before a change in its control occurs along the antero-posterior axis. This reorganization is thought to be a result of improved body movement detection, which allows postural control over the longest time intervals to be triggered more rapidly.