Tendon biomechanical properties enhance human wrist muscle specialization

Gregory J. Loren, Richard L. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Biomechanical properties of human wrist tendons were measured under loads predicted to be experienced by those tendons under physiological conditions. This was accomplished by measuring the architectural properties of the five prime wrist movers-extensors carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL), extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU), flexor carpi radials (FCR), flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU)- and predicting their maximum tension (P0) using a specific tension value of 22.5 N cm-2. Loading the corresponding tendons to P0 resulted in significantly different strain among tendons (p < 0.01) with the largest strain observed in the FCU (3.68 ± 0.31%) and the smallest strain observed in the ECRL (1.78 ± 0.14%). Further, strain magnitude was significantly positively correlated with the tendon length-to-fiber length ratio of the muscle-tendon unit, a measure of the intrinsic compliance of the muscle-tendon unit. Theoretical modeling of the magnitude of muscle sarcomere shortening expected based on the measured biomechanical properties revealed a maximum sarcomere length decrease of about 0.6 μm for the FCU to a minimum of about 0.2 μm for the ECRB at P0. Thus, tendon compliance may, but does not necessarily, result in significant modification of muscle force generation. The significant variation in tendon biomechanical properties was not observed using traditional elongation-to-failure methods on the same specimens. Thus, the use of elongation-to-failure experiments for determination of tendon properties may not be reasonable when the purpose of such studies is to infer physiological function. These data indicate that muscle-tendon units show remarkable specialization and that tendon intrinsic properties accentuate the muscle architectural specialization already present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-799
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1995


  • Biomechanics
  • Motor control
  • Muscle architecture
  • Tendons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Tendon biomechanical properties enhance human wrist muscle specialization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this