Interactions between the human gastrocnemius muscle and the Achilles tendon during incline, level and decline locomotion
Muscles are required to perform or absorb mechanical work under different conditions. However the ability of a muscle to do this depends on the interaction between its contractile components and its elastic components. In the present study we have used ultrasound to examine the length changes of the gastrocnemius medialis muscle fascicle along with those of the elastic Achilles tendon during locomotion under different incline conditions. Six male participants walked (at 5 km h(-1)) on a treadmill at grades of -10%, 0% and 10% and ran (at 10 km h(-1)) at grades of 0% and 10%, whilst simultaneous ultrasound, electromyography and kinematics were recorded. In both walking and running, force was developed isometrically; however, increases in incline increased the muscle fascicle length at which force was developed. Force was developed at shorter muscle lengths for running when compared to walking. Substantial levels of Achilles tendon strain were recorded in both walking and running conditions, which allowed the muscle fascicles to act at speeds more favourable for power production. In all conditions, positive work was performed by the muscle. The measurements suggest that there is very little change in the function of the muscle fascicles at different slopes or speeds, despite changes in the required external work. This may be a consequence of the role of this biarticular muscle or of the load sharing between the other muscles of the triceps surae.
The Journal of Experimental Biology