Effects of physical training and detraining, immobilisation, growth and aging on human fascicle geometry

Sports Med. 2006;36(12):1003-17. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636120-00002.


In addition to its size and the extent of its neural activation, a muscle's geometry (the angles and lengths of its fibres or fascicles) strongly influences its force production characteristics. As with many other tissues within the body, muscle displays significant plasticity in its geometry. This review summarises geometric differences between various athlete populations and describes research examining the plasticity of muscle geometry with physical training, immobilisation/detraining, growth and aging. Typically, heavy resistance training in young adults has been shown to cause significant increases in fascicle angle of vastus lateralis and triceps brachii as measured by ultrasonography, while high-speed/plyometrics training in the absence of weight training has been associated with increases in fascicle length and a reduction in angles of vastus lateralis fascicles. These changes indicate that differences in geometry between various athletic populations might be at least partly attributable to their differing training regimes. Despite some inter-muscular differences, detraining/unloading is associated with decreases in fascicle angle, although little change was shown in muscles such as vastus lateralis and triceps brachii in studies examining the effects of prolonged bed rest. No research has examined the effects of other interventions such as endurance or chronic stretching training. Few data exist describing geometric adaptation during growth and maturation, although increases in gastrocnemius fascicle angle and length seem to occur until maturation in late adolescence. Although some evidence suggests that a decrease in both fascicle angle and length accompanies the normal aging process, there is a paucity of data examining the issue; heavy weight training might attenuate the decline, at least in fascicle length. A significant research effort is required to more fully understand geometric adaptation in response to physical training, immobilisation/detraining, growth and aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*