Architectural properties of the triceps surae muscles were determined in vivo for six men. The ankle was positioned at 15°dorsiflexion (-15°) and 0, 15, and 30°plantar flexion, with the knee set at 0, 45, and 90°. At each position, longitudinal ultrasonic images of the medial (MG) and lateral (LG) gastrocnemius and soleus (Sol) muscles were obtained while the subject was relaxed (passive) and performed maximal isometric plantar flexion (active), from which fascicle lengths and angles with respect to the aponeuroses were determined. In the passive condition, fascicle lengths changed from 59, 65, and 43 mm (knee, 0°; ankle, -15°) to 32, 41, and 30 mm (knee, 90°ankle, 30°) for MG, LG, and Sol, respectively. Fascicle shortening by contraction was more pronounced at longer fascicle lengths. MG had greatest fascicle angles, ranging from 22 to 67°, and was in a very disadvantageous condition when the knee was flexed at 90°, irrespective of ankle positions. Different lengths and angles of fascicles, and their changes by contraction, might be related to differences in force-producing capabilities of the muscles and elastic characteristics of tendons and aponeuroses.
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