Is the spring quality of muscle plastic?

T. E. Reich, S. L. Lindstedt, P. C. LaStayo, D. J. Pierotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


During locomotion, major muscle groups are often activated cyclically. This alternate stretch-shorten pattern of activity could enable muscle to function as a spring, storing and recovering elastic recoil potential energy. Because the ability to store and recover elastic recoil energy could profoundly affect the energetics of locomotion, one might expect this to be an adaptable feature of skeletal muscle. This study tests the hypothesis that chronic eccentric (Ecc) training results in a change in the spring properties of skeletal muscle. Nine female Sprague-Dawley rats underwent chronic Ecc training for 8 wk on a motorized treadmill. The spring properties of muscle were characterized by both active and passive lengthening force productions. A single 'spring constant' (δforce/δlength) from the passive length-tension curves was calculated for each muscle. Results from measurements on long heads of triceps brachii muscle indicate that the trained group produced significantly more passive lengthening force (P = 0.0001) as well as more active lengthening force (P = 0.0001) at all lengths of muscle stretch. In addition, the spring constants were significantly different between the Ecc (1.71 N/mm) and the control (1.31 N/mm) groups. A stiffer spring is capable of storing more energy per unit length stretched, which is of functional importance during locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1661-R1666
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6 47-6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Eccentric contraction
  • Elastic energy
  • Muscle spring
  • Stiffness
  • Titin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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