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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 May;86(5):1445-57.

Length dependence of active force production in skeletal muscle.

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  • 1Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.


The sliding filament and cross-bridge theories of muscle contraction provide discrete predictions of the tetanic force-length relationship of skeletal muscle that have been tested experimentally. The active force generated by a maximally activated single fiber (with sarcomere length control) is maximal when the filament overlap is optimized and is proportionally decreased when overlap is diminished. The force-length relationship is a static property of skeletal muscle and, therefore, it does not predict the consequences of dynamic contractions. Changes in sarcomere length during muscle contraction result in modulation of the active force that is not necessarily predicted by the cross-bridge theory. The results of in vivo studies of the force-length relationship suggest that muscles that operate on the ascending limb of the force-length relationship typically function in stretch-shortening cycle contractions, and muscles that operate on the descending limb typically function in shorten-stretch cycle contractions. The joint moments produced by a muscle depend on the moment arm and the sarcomere length of the muscle. Moment arm magnitude also affects the excursion (length change) of a muscle for a given change in joint angle, and the number of sarcomeres arranged in series within a muscle fiber determines the sarcomere length change associated with a given excursion.

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