Logan Wade, Glen A. Lichtwark, and Dominic J. Farris
Muscle contractile mechanics induced by the changing demands of human movement have the potential to influence our movement strategies. This study examined fascicle length changes of the triceps surae during jumping with added mass or increasing jump height to determine whether the chosen movement strategies were associated with relevant changes in muscle contractile properties. Sixteen participants jumped at sub-maximal and maximal intensities while total net work was matched via two distinct paradigms: (1) adding mass to the participant or (2) increasing jump height. Electromyography (EMG) and ultrasound analyses were performed to examine muscle activation, fascicle length and fascicle velocity changes of the triceps surae during jumping. Integrated EMG was significantly higher in the added mass paradigm with no difference in mean or maximal EMG, indicating that the muscle was activated for a significantly longer period of time but not activated to a greater intensity. Fascicle shortening velocity was slower with added mass compared than with increasing jump height; therefore, intrinsic force–velocity properties probably enabled increased force production. Improved fascicle contractile mechanics paired with a longer activation period probably produced a consistently larger fascicle force, enabling a greater impulse about the ankle joint. This may explain why previous research found that participants used an ankle-centred strategy for work production in the added mass paradigm and not in the jump height paradigm. The varied architecture of muscles within the lower limb may influence which muscles we choose to employ for work production under different task constraints.