Muscle force, work and cost: A novel technique to revisit the Fenn effect

Justus O. Ortega, Stan L. Lindstedt, Frank E. Nelson, Sharon A. Jubrias, Martin J. Kushmerick, Kevin E. Conley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Muscle produces force by forming cross-bridges, using energy released from ATP. While the magnitude and duration of force production primarily determine the energy requirement, nearly a century ago Fenn observed that muscle shortening or lengthening influenced energetic cost of contraction. When work is done by the muscle, the energy cost is increased and when work is done on the muscle the energy cost is reduced. However, the magnitude of the 'Fenn effect' and its mirror ('negative Fenn effect') have not been quantitatively resolved. We describe a new technique coupling magnetic resonance spectroscopy with an in vivo force clamp that can directly quantify the Fenn effect [E=I+W, energy liberated (E) equals the energy cost of isometric force production (I) plus the work done (W )] and the negative Fenn effect (E=I-W ) for one muscle, the first dorsal interosseous (FDI). ATP cost was measured during a series of contractions, each of which occurred at a constant force and for a constant duration, thus constant force-time integral (FTI). In all subjects, as the FTI increased with load, there was a proportional linear increase in energy cost. In addition, the cost of producing force greatly increased when the muscle shortened, and was slightly reduced during lengthening contraction. These results, though limited to a single muscle, contraction velocity and muscle length change, do quantitatively support the Fenn effect. We speculate that they also suggest that an elastic element within the FDI muscle functions to preserve the force generated within the cross-bridges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2075-2082
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • First dorsal interosseous
  • Muscle energetics
  • Muscle mechanics
  • P MRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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