Muscle fascicle and series elastic element length changes along the length of the human gastrocnemius during walking and running

J Biomech. 2007;40(1):157-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2005.10.035. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


Ultrasound imaging has recently been used to distinguish the length changes of muscle fascicles from those of the whole muscle tendon complex during real life movements. The complicated three-dimensional architecture of pennate muscles can however cause heterogeneity in the length changes along the length of a muscle. Here we use ultrasonography to examine muscle fascicle length and pennation angle changes at proximal, distal and midbelly sites of the human gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle during walking (4.5 km/h) and running (7.5 km/h) on a treadmill. The results of this study have shown that muscle fascicles perform the same actions along the length of the human GM muscle during locomotion. However the distal fascicles tend to shorten more and act at greater pennation angles than the more proximal fascicles. Muscle fascicles acted relatively isometrically during the stance phase during walking, however during running the fascicles shortened throughout the stance phase, which corresponded to an increase in the strain of the series elastic elements (SEEs) (consisting of the Achilles tendon and aponeurosis). Measurement of the fascicle length changes at the midbelly level provided a good approximation of the average fascicle length changes across the length of the muscle. The compliance of the SEE allows the muscle fascicles to shorten at a much slower speed, more concomitant with their optimal speed for maximal power output and efficiency, with high velocity shortening during take off in both walking and running achieved by recoil of the SEE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elasticity
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Ultrasonography
  • Walking / physiology*