Muscle-spring dynamics in time-limited, elastic movements

Michael Rosario, Gregory Sutton, Sheila Patek, Gregory Sawicki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
272 Downloads (Pure)


Muscle contractions that load in-series springs with slow speed over a long duration do maximal work and store the most elastic energy. However, time constraints, such as those experienced during escape and predation behaviors, may prevent animals from achieving maximal force capacity from their muscles during spring loading. Here we ask whether animals that have limited time for elastic energy storage operate with springs that are tuned to sub-maximal force production. To answer this question, we used a dynamic model of a muscle-spring system undergoing a fixed-end contraction, with parameters from a time-limited spring-loader (bullfrog: Lithobates catesbeiana) and a non time-limited spring-loader (grasshopper: Schistocerca gregaria). We found that when muscles have less time to contract, stored elastic energy is maximized with lower spring stiffness (quantified as spring constant). The spring stiffness measured in bullfrog tendons permitted less elastic energy storage than was predicted by a modeled, maximal muscle contraction. However, when muscle contractions were modeled using biologically-relevant loading times for bullfrog jumps (50 ms), tendon stiffness actually maximized elastic energy storage. In contrast, grasshoppers, which are not time limited, exhibited spring stiffness that maximized elastic energy storage when modeled with a maximal muscle contraction. These findings demonstrate the significance of evolutionary variation in tendon and apodeme properties to realistic jumping contexts and the importance of considering the effect of muscle dynamics and behavioral constraints when considering energy storage in muscle-spring systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20161561
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2016


  • Elastic Forces
  • Springs
  • Biomechanics
  • Jumping
  • muscle-spring interaction
  • elastic energy storage
  • muscle dynamics
  • time-limited loading
  • fixed-end contraction
  • spring stiffness

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Muscle-spring dynamics in time-limited, elastic movements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this