This is a report of experiments on ankle extensor muscles of human subjects and a parallel series on the medial gastrocnemius of the anaesthetised cat, investigating the origin of the rise in passive tension after a period of eccentric exercise. Subjects exercised their triceps surae of one leg eccentrically by walking backwards on an inclined, forward‐moving treadmill. Concentric exercise required walking forwards on a backwards‐moving treadmill. For all subjects the other leg acted as a control. Immediately after both eccentric and concentric exercise there was a significant drop in peak active torque, but only after eccentric exercise was this accompanied by a shift in optimum angle for torque generation and a rise in passive torque. In the eccentrically exercised group some swelling and soreness developed but not until 24 h post‐exercise. In the animal experiments the contracting muscle was stretched by 6 mm at 50 mm s−1 over a length range symmetrical about the optimum length for tension generation. Measurements of passive tension were made before and after the eccentric contractions, using small stretches to a range of muscle lengths, or with large stretches covering the full physiological range. After 150 eccentric contractions, passive tension was significantly elevated over most of the range of lengths. Measurements of work absorption during stretch‐release cycles showed significant increases after the contractions. It is suggested that the rise in passive tension in both human and animal muscles after eccentric contractions is the result of development of injury contractures in damaged muscle fibres.
The Journal of Physiology – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 2001
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