Behaviour of the human gastrocnemius muscle architecture during submaximal isometric fatigue

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2005 Aug;94(5-6):611-7. doi: 10.1007/s00421-005-1366-8. Epub 2005 May 20.


The purpose of this study was to examine whether the human gastrocnemius medialis (GM) fascicle length and pennation angle alter during a sustained submaximal isometric plantar flexion. Fourteen male subjects performed maximal voluntary plantar flexions (MVC) on a dynamometer before and after a fatiguing task. This task consisted of a sustained submaximal isometric fatiguing contraction (40% MVC) until failure to hold the defined moment. Ultrasonography was used to visualise the muscle belly of the GM. Leg kinematics were recorded (120 Hz) to calculate the joint moment using inverse dynamics. The exerted moments and the EMG signals from GM and lateralis, soleus and tibialis anterior were measured at 1,080 Hz. The root mean square (RMS) of the EMG signal of the three triceps surae muscles increased significantly (P < or = 0.05) between 17% and 28% with fatigue. Further, the fascicle length of the GM significantly decreased from 47.1 +/- 8.0 mm at the beginning to 41.8 +/- 6.7 mm at the end of fatigue and the pennation angle increased from 23.5 +/- 4.1 degrees to 26.3 +/- 2.2 degrees (P < or = 0.05). The changes in fascicle length and pennation angle of the GM during the contraction can influence the force potential of the muscle due to the force-length relationship and the force transmission to the tendon. This provides evidence on that an additional mechanical mechanism, namely tendon creep, can contribute to the increase in the EMG activity of the GM during submaximal isometric sustained contractions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Torque
  • Ultrasonography