Movement mechanics as a determinate of muscle structure, recruitment and coordination

James M. Wakeling, Ollie M. Blake, Iris Wong, Manku Rana, Sabrina S M Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


During muscle contractions, the muscle fascicles may shorten at a rate different from the muscleetendon unit, and the ratio of these velocities is its gearing. Appropriate gearing allows fascicles to reduce their shortening velocities and allows them to operate at effective shortening velocities across a range of movements. Gearing of the muscle fascicles within the muscle belly is the result of rotations of the fascicles and bulging of the belly. Variable gearing can also occur as a result of tendon length changes that can be caused by changes in the relative timing of muscle activity for different mechanical tasks. Recruitment patterns of slow and fast fibres are crucial for achieving optimal muscle performance, and coordination between muscles is related to whole limb performance. Poor coordination leads to inefficiencies and loss of power, and optimal coordination is required for high power outputs and high mechanical efficiencies from the limb. This paper summarizes key studies in these areas of neuromuscular mechanics and results from studies where we have tested these phenomena on a cycle ergometer are presented to highlight novel insights. The studies show how muscle structure and neural activation interact to generate smooth and effective motion of the body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1554-1564
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1570
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Efficiency
  • Gearing
  • Pennation
  • Power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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