Tendon elasticity and muscle function

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2002 Dec;133(4):1001-11. doi: 10.1016/s1095-6433(02)00143-5.


Vertebrate animals exploit the elastic properties of their tendons in several different ways. Firstly, metabolic energy can be saved in locomotion if tendons stretch and then recoil, storing and returning elastic strain energy, as the animal loses and regains kinetic energy. Leg tendons save energy in this way when birds and mammals run, and an aponeurosis in the back is also important in galloping mammals. Tendons may have similar energy-saving roles in other modes of locomotion, for example in cetacean swimming. Secondly, tendons can recoil elastically much faster than muscles can shorten, enabling animals to jump further than they otherwise could. Thirdly, tendon elasticity affects the control of muscles, enhancing force control at the expense of position control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elasticity
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Tendons / physiology*