This experiment was designed to study the relationship between the cross-sectional area of rat skeletal muscle showing glycogen loss and the muscle forces exerted during exercise. Muscular force exerted by the extensors of the elbows and ankle was increased by 24% by loading rats with 24% of their body mass while running them on a treadmill at 30 m.min-1. VO2 increased by 24% and stride frequency was unchanged when the rats ran with loads. Cross-sectional areas of the elbow and ankle extensor muscles showing glycogen loss were compared from rats running with and without the load. We found a nearly direct proportionality between the changes in force and the changes in muscle area showing glycogen loss, i.e. when the force of the extensors was increased by 24%, the cross-sectional area of the elbow extensors showing glycogen loss increased by 28%, and that of the ankle extensor group increased by 24%. The more peripheral muscles in each group accounted for a greater proportion of the increase in cross-sectional area of the group showing glycogen loss (i.e. lateral and long heads of triceps brachii muscle accounted for 91% of the increase in the elbow extensor group, and gastrocnemius muscle accounted for 84% of the increase in the ankle extensor group). Most of the increases in muscle area showing glycogen loss occurred in fast-twitch-glycolytic fibres (84% in the elbow and 88% in the ankle). The data suggest that increasing muscle force requirements by 24% by loading resulted in proportional increases in cross-sectional area of muscles recruited to produce the force, i.e. that spatial recruitment primarily accounted for the elevation in force. The relatively greater increases in cross-sectional area showing glycogen loss of peripheral muscles within a group indicate the importance of studying whole groups of muscles when considering muscular recruitment patterns during exercise.

This content is only available via PDF.