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The Effect of Multidirectional Loading on Contractions of the M. Medial Gastrocnemius

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Research has shown that compression of muscle can lead to a change in muscle force. Most studies show compression to lead to a reduction in muscle force, although recent research has shown that increases are also possible. Based on methodological differences in the loading design between studies, it seems that muscle length and the direction of transverse loading influence the effect of muscle compression on force production. Thus, in our current study we implement these two factors to influence the effects of muscle loading. In contrast to long resting length of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) in most studies, we use a shorter MG resting length by having participant seated with their knees at a 90° angle. Where previous studies have used unidirectional loads to compress the MG, in this study we applied a multidirectional load using a sling setup. Multidirectional loading using a sling setup has been shown to cause muscle force reductions in previous research. As a result of our choices in experimental design we observed changes in the effects of muscle loading compared to previous research. In the present study we observed no changes in muscle force due to muscle loading. Muscle thickness and pennation angle showed minor but significant increases during contraction. However, no significant changes occurred between unloaded and loaded trials. Fascicle thickness and length showed different patterns of change compared to previous research. We show that muscle loading does not result in force reduction in all situations and is possibly linked to differences in muscle architecture and muscle length.
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