Muscle fiber length and moment arm coordination during dorsi- and plantarflexion in the mouse hindlimb

Richard L. Lieber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that muscle fiber length and joint moment arm are combined in such a way that maximum muscle force is produced during locomotion. Plantarflexor (soleus, SOL and medial gastrocnemius, MG) and dorsiflexor (extensor digitorum longus, EDL and tibialis anterior, TA) muscle architecture in the mouse was measured along with their associated moment arms. Fiber length varied significantly between muscles ranging from 5.7 ± 0.2 mm (MG) to 7.6 ± 0.2 mm (TA). Plantarflexor moment arms were over twice as large as dorsiflexor moment arms (1.88 ± 0.06 mm vs. 0.84 ± 0.03 mm) suggesting a greater muscle length change with joint angle for plantarflexors compared to dorsiflexors. Using a simple muscle-joint model, the active sarcomere length range in these muscle groups was calculated and proved to be quite similar between functional groups. The active range for dorsiflexors was 2.2-2.4 μm, while the active range for plantarflexors was 2.2-2.5 μm, indicating that both muscle groups operate primarily near the plateau of their length tension-relation. Finally, when calculating force produced by muscles during locomotion, the combination of moment arm and fiber length measured in all muscle groups yielded muscle-joint systems that produced near maximal forces at the velocities modeled. These data indicate that fiber length and moment arm appear to be coordinated to yield the greatest possible force production during locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-89
Number of pages6
JournalCells Tissues Organs
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • Force-length relationship
  • Isometric contraction
  • Tendon compliance
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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