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J Exp Biol. 2002 May;205(Pt 9):1275-83.

Force enhancement following stretching of skeletal muscle: a new mechanism.

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  • 1Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.


We investigated force enhancement following stretching in the in situ cat soleus muscle on the ascending and descending limb of the force-length relationship by varying the amount and speed of stretching and the frequency of activation (5 Hz, 30 Hz). There was a small but consistent (P<0.05) amount of force enhancement following muscle stretching on the ascending limb of the force-length relationship for both stimulation frequencies. The steady-state active isometric forces following stretches of 9 mm on the descending limb of the force-length relationship were always equal to or greater than the corresponding forces from the purely isometric contractions at the length at which the stretch was started. Therefore, force production for these trials showed positive stiffness and was associated with stable behavior. Following active stretching of cat soleus on the descending limb of the force-length relationship, the passive forces at the end of the test were significantly greater than the corresponding passive forces for purely isometric contractions, or the passive forces following stretching of the passive muscle. This passive force enhancement following active stretching increased with increasing magnitude of stretch, was not associated with structural damage, and only disappeared once the muscle was shortened. For stretches of 6 mm and 9 mm, the passive force enhancement accounted for more than 50 % of the total force enhancement, reaching a peak contribution of 83.7 % for the stretches of 9 mm at a speed of 3 mm s(-1). The results of this study suggest that a passive structural element provides a great part of the force enhancement on the descending limb of the force-length relationship of the cat soleus. Furthermore, the results indicate that mechanisms other than sarcomere length non-uniformity alone are operative.

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