The mechanical energy exchanges between components of a muscle-tendon complex, i.e. the contractile element (CE) and the series elastic element (SEE), and the environment during stretch-shorten cycles were examined. The efficiency of the storage and release of series elastic energy (SEE efficiency) and the overall mechanical efficiency of the rat gastrocnemius muscle (N = 5) were determined for a range of stretch-shorten contractions. SEE efficiency was defined as elastic energy released to the environment divided by external work done upon the muscle-tendon complex plus internal work exchange from the CE to the SEE. Mechanical efficiency is external work done by the muscle-tendon complex divided by the external work done upon the muscle-tendon complex plus work done by the CE. All stretch-shorten cycles were performed with a movement amplitude of 3mm (6.7% strain). Cycle frequency, duty factor and the onset of stimulation were altered for the different cycles. SEE efficiency varied from 0.02 to 0.85, mechanical efficiency from 0.43 t 0.92. SEE efficiency depended on the timing of stimulation and net muscle power in different ways. Mechanical efficiency was much more closely correlated with net power. The timing of muscle relaxation was crucial for the effective release of elastic energy. Simulated in vivo contractions indicated that during rat locomotion the gastrocnemius may have a role other than that of effectively storing elastic energy and generating work. Computer simulations showed that the amount of series elastic compliance can affect the internal energetics of a muscle contraction strongly without changing the muscle force generation dramatically.

This content is only available via PDF.