The short range stiffness of active mammalian muscle and its effect on mechanical properties

J Physiol. 1974 Jul;240(2):331-50. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1974.sp010613.


1. The tension in tetanized cat soleus and lateral gastrocnemius muscles was measured during alternating lengthening and shortening movements. Sinusoidal movements were sometimes used; on other occasions the movement was at a constant velocity but with periodic reversal of direction.2. With constant velocity movements of small amplitude the tension rose steeply during lengthening and fell during shortening in a relatively simple way. With longer movements the tension at first changed steeply as it had done with the smaller movement, but later in the movement the resistance of the muscles decreased so that the tension change became more gradual. The muscles resisted a small movement or the first part of a larger movement with a ;short range stiffness' which did not persist as the movement continued.3. So long as the constant velocity movement was not too slow the short range stiffness was independent of velocity though it lasted for more of a fast movement than of a slow one.4. In small movements the muscle was never extended beyond its short range stiffness, and the over-all peak-to-peak tension change was therefore large compared with the amplitude of movement. When, with larger movements, the muscle was stretched into a range in which it became more compliant, the peak-to-peak force fluctuation did not increase by an equivalent amount, and over the whole course of the movement the force change per unit extension was smaller.5. When the movement was confined to a short range, little work was expended in driving the muscle through a cycle of movement; its properties were essentially elastic. With larger amplitudes the muscle met the movement with a frictional resistance, the tension during lengthening then being greater than during shortening. A considerable amount of work had then to be done on the muscle to maintain the movement.6. The short range stiffness was also apparent in the response to sinusoidal movements.7. The short range stiffness was attributed to elastic properties of cross-bridges between thick and thin filaments in the myofibrils.8. The effect of the short range stiffness on the mechanical properties of the limb is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cats
  • Elasticity
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Movement
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Vibration