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Paige E. Rice, Herman van Werkhoven, Edward K. Merritt and Jeffrey M. McBride

The effect of rigorous dance training from a young age might result in positive adaptations to lower leg morphology and well-developed stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) strategies, which fortify performance. The sizable volume of hyperplantarflexion and minimal knee flexion involved in dance skills

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Stéphane Perrey, Guillaume Millet, Robin Candau and Jean-Denis Rouillon

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of speed on the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) behavior during roller ski skating. Ten highly skilled male cross-country skiers roller skied at 4.56, 5.33 m · s–1 and maximal speed using the V2-alternate technique on a flat terrain. Knee and ankle joint kinematics, and EMG of the vastus lateralis (VL) and gastrocnemius lateralis (GL) muscles were recorded during the last 40 s of each bout of roller skiing. Maximal speed was associated with increases in cycle rate combined with decreases in cycle length. For VL, no significant differences were observed for the integrated EMG eccentric-to-concentric ratio (iEMG Ecc/Conc) and for the stretching velocity over the range of speeds. For GL, stretching velocity and iEMG Ecc/Conc were significantly greater at maximal speed. The analysis of GL EMG activity suggests that speed improved GL stiffness so that more elastic energy was stored, a better force transmission occurred, and coupling time decreased. These findings suggest that the efficiency of roller ski skating locomotion may be increased with speed through a better use of the stretch-shortening cycle pattern in the ankle extensors.

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Gerrit Jan van Ingen Schenau, Maarten F. Bobbert and Arnold de Haan

This target article addresses the role of storage and reutilization of elastic energy in stretch-shortening cycles. It is argued that for discrete movements such as the vertical jump, elastic energy does not explain the work enhancement due to the prestretch. This enhancement seems to occur because the prestretch allows muscles to develop a high level of active state and force before starting to shorten. For cyclic movements in which stretch-shortening cycles occur repetitively, some authors have claimed that elastic energy enhances mechanical efficiency. In the current article it is demonstrated that this claim is often based on disputable concepts such as the efficiency of positive work or absolute work, and it is argued that elastic energy cannot affect mechanical efficiency simply because this energy is not related to the conversion of metabolic energy into mechanical energy. A comparison of work and efficiency measures obtained at different levels of organization reveals that there is in fact no decisive evidence to either support or reject the claim that the stretch-shortening cycle enhances muscle efficiency. These explorations lead to the conclusion that the body of knowledge about the mechanics and energetics of the stretch-shortening cycle is in fact quite lean. A major challenge is to bridge the gap between knowledge obtained at different levels of organization, with the ultimate purpose of understanding how the intrinsic properties of muscles manifest themselves under in-vivo-like conditions and how they are exploited in whole-body activities such as running. To achieve this purpose, a close cooperation is required between muscle physiologists and human movement scientists performing inverse and forward dynamic simulation studies of whole-body exercises.

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James R. Debenham, William I. Gibson, Mervyn J. Travers, Amity C. Campbell and Garry T. Allison

Context:

Eccentric exercises are increasingly being used to treat lower-limb musculoskeletal conditions such as Achilles tendinopathy. Despite widespread clinical application and documented efficacy, mechanisms underpinning clinical benefit remain unclear. Positive adaptations in motor performance are a potential mechanism.

Objective:

To investigate how an eccentric loading intervention influences measures of stretch-shortening-cycle (SSC) behavior during a hopping task.

Design:

Within-subjects repeated-measures observational study.

Setting:

University motion-analysis laboratory.

Participants:

Healthy adults.

Interventions:

A single intervention of 5 sets of 10 eccentric plantar-flexion contractions at 6 repetitions maximum using a commercial seated calf-raise machine.

Main Outcome Measures:

Lower-limb stiffness, sagittal-plane ankle kinematics, and temporal muscle activity of the agonist (soleus) and antagonist (tibialis anterior) muscles, measured during submaximal hopping on a custom-built sledge-jump system.

Results:

Eccentric loading altered ankle kinematics during submaximal hopping; peak angle shifted to a less dorsiflexed position by 2.9° and ankle angle precontact shifted by 4.4° (P < .001). Lower-limb stiffness increased from 5.9 to 6.8 N/m (P < .001), while surface EMG measures of soleus occurred 14–44% earlier (P < .001) after the loading intervention.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that eccentric loading alters SSC behavior in a manner reflective of improved motor performance. Decreased ankle excursion, increased lower-limb stiffness, and alterations in motor control may represent a positive adaptive response to eccentric loading. These findings support the theory that mechanisms underpinning eccentric loading for tendinopathy may in part be due to improved “buffering” of the tendon by the neuromuscular system.

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Vassilis Gerodimos, Andreas Zafeiridis, Stefanos Perkos, Konstantina Dipla, Vassiliki Manou and Spiros Kellis

This study examined from childhood to adulthood: (1) the effects of countermovement (use of stretch-shortening cycle-SSC) and arm-swing (AS) on vertical jumping (VJ) performance and (2) the ability to use the SSC and AS during VJ. Male basketball players (n = 106) were divided according to their age into: children (12.0 ± 0.23), young adolescents (14.5 ± 0.41), old adolescents (16.9 ± 0.27), and adults (21.9 ± 0.32). Each participant executed three maximal squat jumps (SJ), countermovement jumps without arms (CMJ) and with arms (CMJA). The contribution of SSC and AS was calculated by the augmentation (difference and percent change) in performance between CMJ and SJ, and CMJA and CMJ, respectively. CMJA performance was significantly (p < .05) higher than CMJ and SJ, and CMJ was higher than SJ within all age-groups. There were no significant differences (p > .05) among children, young and old adolescents, and adults in the percent contribution of SSC and AS to VJ performance. The variability in the contribution of SSC and AS to VJ performance was about twofold higher in children vs. adults. It appears that the ability to use the SSC and AS is not affected by the maturation process in males, trained in basketball.

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Claire T. Farley

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David L. Morgan and Uwe Proske