The force-length relationship of a muscle-tendon complex: experimental results and model calculations

Maarten F. Bobbert*, Gertjan C. Ettema, Peter A. Huijing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Models are useful when studying how architectural and physiological properties of muscle-tendon complexes are related to function, because they allow for the simulation of the behaviour of such complexes during natural movements. In the construction of these models, evaluation of their accuracy is an important step. In the present study, a model was constructed to calculate the isometric force-length relationship of the rat extensor digitorum longus muscle-tendon complex. The model is based on the assumption that a muscle-tendon complex is a collection of independent units, each consisting of a muscle fibre in series with a tendon fibre. By intention, values for model parameters were derived indirectly, using only the measured maximal isometric tetanic force, the distance between origin and insertion at which it occurred (optimum lOI) and an estimate of muscle fibre optimal length. The accuracy of the calculated force-length relationship was subsequently evaluated by comparing it to the relationship measured in isometric tetanic contractions of a real complex in the rat. When the length of distal muscle fibres, measured during isometric contraction at optimal lOI of the whole complex, was used as an estimate for muscle fibre optimal length of all muscle fibre - tendon fibre units in the model, the calculated relationship was too narrow. That is, both on the ascending limb and on the descending limb the calculated tetanic force was lower than the measured tetanic force. These discrepancies could be explained partly by assuming that a spread existed in optimal lengths of the units, and that the units which contained the distal muscle fibres were acting below their optimal length during isometric contraction at optimal lOI of the whole complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-329
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1990



  • Extensor digitorum muscle
  • Force-length relationship
  • Model
  • Muscle-tendon complex
  • Rat

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