Relationships of 35 lower limb muscles to height and body mass quantified using MRI

J Biomech. 2014 Feb 7;47(3):631-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2013.12.002. Epub 2013 Dec 11.


Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the body and serves various physiological functions including the generation of movement and support. Whole body motor function requires adequate quantity, geometry, and distribution of muscle. This raises the question: how do muscles scale with subject size in order to achieve similar function across humans? While much of the current knowledge of human muscle architecture is based on cadaver dissection, modern medical imaging avoids limitations of old age, poor health, and limited subject pool, allowing for muscle architecture data to be obtained in vivo from healthy subjects ranging in size. The purpose of this study was to use novel fast-acquisition MRI to quantify volumes and lengths of 35 major lower limb muscles in 24 young, healthy subjects and to determine if muscle size correlates with bone geometry and subject parameters of mass and height. It was found that total lower limb muscle volume scales with mass (R(2)=0.85) and with the height-mass product (R(2)=0.92). Furthermore, individual muscle volumes scale with total muscle volume (median R(2)=0.66), with the height-mass product (median R(2)=0.61), and with mass (median R(2)=0.52). Muscle volume scales with bone volume (R(2)=0.75), and muscle length relative to bone length is conserved (median s.d.=2.1% of limb length). These relationships allow for an arbitrary subject's individual muscle volumes to be estimated from mass or mass and height while muscle lengths may be estimated from limb length. The dataset presented here can further be used as a normative standard to compare populations with musculoskeletal pathologies.

Keywords: Allometry; Length; Muscle; Musculoskeletal; Volume.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Leg Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Leg Bones / physiology
  • Lower Extremity / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscles
  • Young Adult