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Tension is produced internally within in the sarcomeres, considered the contractile

component of the muscle, as a result of cross-bridge activity and the resultant sliding of
filaments. However, the sarcomeres are not attached directly to the bones. Instead, the tension
generated by these contractile elements must be transmitted to the bone via the connective tissue
and tendons before the bone can be moved. Connective tissue, as well as other components of the
muscle, such as intracellular elastic proteins, exhibits a certain degree of passive elasticity. These
noncontractile tissues are referred to as the series-elastic component of the muscle; they behave
like a stretchy spring placed between the internal tension-generating elements and the bone that
is to be moved against an external load.Shortening of the sarcomeres stretches the series-elastic
component. Muscle tension is transmitted to the bone by means of this tightening of the serieselastic component. This force applied to the bone is responsible for moving the bone against a
A muscle is typically attached to at least two different bones across a joint by means of
tendons that extend from each end of the muscle. When the muscle shortens during contraction,
the position of the joint is changed as one bone is moved in relation to the other-for example,
flexion of the elbow joint by contraction of the biceps muscle and extension of the elbow by
contraction of the triceps. The end of muscle attached to the more stationary part of the skeleton
is called the origin, and the end attached to the skeletal part that moves is referred to as the
Not all muscle contractions result in muscle shortening and movement of bones, however.
For a muscle to shorten during contraction, the tension developed in the muscle must exceed the
force that oppose movement of the bone to which the muscles insertion is attached. In the case
of elbow flexion, the opposing force, or load, is the weight of an object being lifted. When you
flex your elbow without lifting any external object, there still a load, albeit a minimal one-the
weight of your forearm being moved against the force of gravity.


There are two primary types of contraction, depending on wether the muscles changes
length during contraction. In an isotonic contraction, muscle tension remains constant as the
muscle changes length. In an isometric contraction, the muscle is prevented from shortening, so
tension develops at constant muscle length. The same internal events occur in both isotonic and
isometric contractions: the tension-generating contractile process is turned on by muscle

excitation; the crossbridges start cycling; and filament sliding shortens the sarcomeres, which
stretches the series-elastic component to exert force on the bone at the site of the muscles
Considering your biceps as an example, assume that you are going to lift an object. When
the tension developing in your biceps becomes great enough to overcome the weight of the
object in your hand, you can lift the object, with the whole muscle is shortening in the process.
Because the weight of the object does not change as it is lifted, the muscle tension remains
constant throughout the period of shortening. Thus is an isotonic contraction. Isotonic
contractions are used for body movements and for moving external objects.
What happens if you try to lift an object too heavy for you? In this case, the muscle
cannot shorten and lift the object but remains at constant length despite the development of
tension, so an isometric contraction occurs. In addition to occurring when the load is too great,
isometric contractions also take place when the tension developed in the muscle is deliberately
less than that needed to move the load. In this case, the goal is to keep the muscle at fixed length
although it is capable of developing more tension. These submaximal isometric contractions are
important for maintaining posture and for supporting objects in a fixed position. During a given
movement, a muscle may shift between isotonic and isometric contractions. For example, when
you pick up a book to read, your biceps undergoes an isotonic contraction while you are lifting
the book, but the contraction becomes isometric as you stop to hold the book in front of you.
There are actually two types of isotonic contraction there are concentric and eccentric. In
both cases the muscle changes length at constant tension. With concentric contractions, however,
the muscle shortens, whereas with eccentric contractions the muscle lengthens because it is being
stretched by an external force while contracting. With an eccentric contraction, the contractile
activity is resisting the stretch. An example is lowering the load to the ground. During this action,
the muscle fibers in the biceps are lengthening but are still contracting in opposition to being
stretched. This tension support the weight of the object.
The body is not limited to pure isotonic and isometric contractions. Muscle length and
tension frequently vary throughout a range of motion. Think about drawing a bow and arrow.
The tension of the biceps muscle continuously increases to overcome the progressively
increasing resistance as the bow is stretched further. At the same time, the muscle progressively
shortens as the bow is drawn farther back. Such a contraction occurs at neither constant tension
nor constant length.
Some skeletal muscles do not attach to bones at both ends but still produce movement.
For example, the muscles of the tongue are not attached at the free end. Isotonic contractions of

the tongue muscles maneuver the free unattached portion of the tongue to facilitate speech and
eating. The external eye muscles attach to the skull at their origin but to the eye at their insertion.
Isotonic contractions of these muscles produce the eye movement that enable us to track moving
objects, read, and so on. A few skeletal muscles that are completely unattached to bone actually
prevent movement. These are the voluntarily controlled rings of skeletal muscles, known as
sphincters, that guard the exit of urine and feces from the body by isotonically contracting.


The load is also an important determinant of the velocity, or speed, of shortening. The
greater the load, the lower the velocity at which a single muscle fiber shortens during an isotonic
tetanic contraction. The velocity of shortening is maximal when there is no external load,
progressively decreases with an increasing load, and falls to zero when the load cannot be
overcome by maximal tetanic tension. You have frequently experienced this load-velocity
relationship. You can lift light objects requiring little muscle tension quickly, whereas you can
lift very heavy objects only slowly, if at all. This relationship between load and shortening
velocity is a fundamental property of muscle, presumably because it takes the cross bridges
longer to stroke against a greater load.



Muscle accomplishes work in a physical sense only when an object is moved. Work is
defined as force multiplied by distance. Force can be equated to the muscle tension required to
overcome the load. The amount of work accomplished by a contracting muscle therefore depends
on how much an object weighs and how far it is moved. In an isometric contraction when no
object is moved, the muscle contractions efficiency as a producer of external work is zero. All
energy consumed by the muscle during the contraction is converted to heat. In an isotonic
contraction,, the muscles efficiency is about 25%. Of the energy consumed by the muscle during
the contraction, 25% is realized as external work whereas the remaining 75% is converted to
Much of this heat is not really wasted in a physiological sense because it is used in
maintaining the body temperature. In fact, shivering-a form of involuntarily induced skeletal
muscle contraction-is a well-known mechanism for increasing heat production on a cold day.

Heavy exercise on a hot day, in contrast, may overheat thw body, because the normal heat loss
mechanism may be unable to compensate for this increase in heat production.


Most skeletal muscles are attached to bones across joints, forming lever systems. A lever
is a rigid structure capable of moving around a pivot point know as a fulcrum. In the body, the
bones function as lever, the joints serve as fulcrums, and the skeletal muscles provide the force to
move the bones. The portion of a lever between the the fulcrum and the point where an upward
force is applied is called the power arm; the portion between the fulcrum and the downward
force exerted by a load is known as the load arm.
The most common type of lever system in the body is exemplified by flexion of the
elbow joint