Biomechanical comparison of stimulated and nonstimulated skeletal muscle pulled to failure

Am J Sports Med. Sep-Oct 1987;15(5):448-54. doi: 10.1177/036354658701500504.


We compared the biomechanical properties of passive and stimulated muscle rapidly lengthened to failure in an experimental animal model. The mechanical parameters compared were force to tear, change in length to tear, site of failure, and energy absorbed by the muscle-tendon unit before failure. Paired comparisons were made between 1) muscles stimulated at 64 Hz (tetanic stimulation) and passive (no stimulation) muscles, 2) muscles stimulated at 16 Hz (wave-summated stimulation) and passive muscles, and 3) muscles stimulated at 64 Hz and at 16 Hz. Both tetanically stimulated and wave-summation contracted muscles required a greater force to tear (at 64 Hz, 12.86 N more, P less than 0.0004; and at 16 Hz, 17.79 N more, P less than 0.003) than their nonstimulated controls, while there was no statistical difference in failure force between muscles stimulated at 16 Hz and 64 Hz. The energy absorbed was statistically greater for the stimulated muscles than for the passive muscles in Groups 1 and 2 (at 64 Hz, 100% more, P less than 0.0003; and 16 Hz, 88% more, P less than 0.0002). In Group 3, the tetanically contracted muscle-tendon units absorbed 18% more energy than the wave-summated stimulated muscles (P less than 0.01). All muscles tore at the distal musculotendinous junction, and there was no difference in the length increase at tear between muscles in each group. These findings may lead to enhanced understanding of the mechanism and physiology of muscle strain injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Stress, Mechanical