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The Energy of Muscle Contraction. III. Kinetic Energy During Cyclic Contractions

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Ross, S. A., Domínguez, S., Nigam, N., & Wakeling, J. M. (2021). The Energy of Muscle Contraction. III. Kinetic Energy During Cyclic Contractions. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, 306.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2021.628819
Skeletal muscle
Muscle mechanics
Muscle mass
Finite element method
Cyclic contractions

During muscle contraction, chemical energy is converted to mechanical energy when ATP is hydrolysed during cross-bridge cycling. This mechanical energy is then distributed and stored in the tissue as the muscle deforms or is used to perform external work. We previously showed how energy is distributed through contracting muscle during fixed-end contractions; however, it is not clear how the distribution of tissue energy is altered by the kinetic energy of muscle mass during dynamic contractions. In this study we conducted simulations of a 3D continuum muscle model that accounts for tissue mass, as well as force-velocity effects, in which the muscle underwent sinusoidal work-loop contractions coupled with bursts of excitation. We found that increasing muscle size, and therefore mass, increased the kinetic energy per unit volume of the muscle. In addition to greater relative kinetic energy per cycle, relatively more energy was also stored in the aponeurosis, and less was stored in the base material, which represented the intra and extracellular tissue components apart from the myofibrils. These energy changes in larger muscles due to greater mass were associated lower mass-specific mechanical work output per cycle, and this reduction in mass-specific work was greatest for smaller initial pennation angles. When we compared the effects of mass on the model tissue behaviour to that of in situ muscle with added mass during comparable work-loop trials, we found that greater mass led to lower maximum and higher minimum acceleration in the longitudinal (x) direction near the middle of the muscle compared to at the non-fixed end, which indicates that greater mass contributes to tissue non-uniformity in whole muscle. These comparable results for the simulated and in situ muscle also show that this modelling framework behaves in ways that are consistent with experimental muscle. Overall, the results of this study highlight that muscle mass is an important determinant of whole muscle behaviour.

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