Theory & Practice: Muscle Elasticity
What is muscle elasticity? If you were to stretch a muscle you would see it shrink back a bit. In plain words, it’s a natural ability to recover to original form upon the removal of the force initially applied. In physical activity it is the ability of muscles to perform work, specifically, to contract rapidly after and immediately prior to extension.
A human body is a mix of physics, geometry, psychology and all that good stuff, so we should not talk about muscles and their function as separate from the whole. Muscles are a part of our entire system, and as such, whatever functions they perform or whatever is going on, it does not happen on its own. There is a whole chain of processes happening.
What is Muscle Elasticity
So, actually, ‘muscle elasticity’ is an incorrect term to use. Muscles do not work independently, nor do they work under our command. The sooner you let go of what you imagine you control, the sooner you will discover what you do control and consequently you will move better.
In Pose Method all of the key elements that are of any significance or benefit are brought together. Everything is connected. The center of the method, the Pose, is the most ‘ready to go’ pose of the body facilitating optimum elasticity allowing for the most effective interaction with the support where the entire musculoskeletal structure is ‘loaded’ with potential energy.
When we talk about muscle elasticity what we should be discussing is a ‘muscle-tendon complex’. Tendons play a very important and active role in this process, but the muscles run the show, yet let’s not forget that the true master is gravity.
Muscle-tendon Elasticity Complex
The concept of muscle-tendon elasticity complex is a relatively new one and research with the correct goals is much needed. There are, however, already some very certain and obvious facts about muscles and tendons and how they work together making for a unique system. For example, it is a fact that tendons can stretch more than muscles. It is most likely because tendons were meant to stretch and muscles weren’t as much, muscles were meant to contract and relax.
Speaking of tendons, let’s mention the Achilles tendon, the biggest tendon in our entire body, which just happens to be located at the ankle, which is part of the ‘mechanism’ of movement like walking, running. So instead of being concerned with overloading the largest tendon of the body during running (if it is the largest tendon, is it not logical to assume that it was meant to and it can handle the loading during running? It’s not the loading it is how it’s done that causes the problem), why not question the integrity of the idea of loading the joints (knees) that were obviously meant to simply bend, yet it is often recommended to actively use them in some many other ways.
It is a requirement in Pose Method of running to keep knees slightly bent at all times, why? Besides the fact that joints bend and should not be in locked positions when in motion, especially during running, bent knees help to absorb the shock during movement. It is also a part of the ‘rules’ of the muscle-tendon elasticity complex.
How It Works
Muscle-tendon elasticity complex is the natural ability of your musculoskeletal system to ‘return to its original state’. When the limb of your body is moved in any way in any direction for any purpose, muscles and tendons accommodate by elongating or shortening at various key spots. When we move our limbs back to where the movement had started, it is easy to notice how everything goes right back to its shape and form, and place. When we pull the foot up with the hamstring we work with this mechanism.
Muscles and tendons work in unison and in tandem, each one however, with its own timing doing its own job. As should be expected and as mentioned above, muscle-tendon complex has ‘rules’. In order to ‘activate’ the complex and benefit from it, one must adhere to those ‘rules’ otherwise the effectiveness of the complex is dramatically minimized or completely lost. And worst of all – injuries happen. Muscle tears and tendon ruptures are consequences of breaking those rules and performing moves out of synch with gravity.
Muscle-tendon complex, like so many other processes in our body, happens in space and time. It is a rhythmic work of muscles & tendons combined with rhythm of loading. And, it is a biomechanical law that guarantees the magic – with high cadence muscles ‘come to life’, so to say, and work at the highest level of their elastic function. Without much effort on your part your body continues forward movement. Elite athletes, most of whom are naturally highly talented, instinctively run with high cadence. Their perception allows them to naturally sense the ease of movement provided by it.
With age muscle-tendon complex naturally changes, but the decline in elasticity is less for active people than for non-active. So keep moving!
Check out progressions of drills and exercises in our video program for runners aimed at developing your muscles’ elasticity to help you become a better runner.
Read more about muscle-tendon elasticity complex in the Pose Method of Running.
- Alexander, A.M., 1988, Springs as energy stores: running. Elastic mechanisms in animal movement. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 31-50.
- Cavagna, G.A., Saibene, F.P. and Margaria, R., 1964, Mechanical work in running, J. Appl. Physiol., 19:249-256
- Cavagna, G.A., 1977, Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 5, 89-129.
- Cavagna, P.R., La Fortune M.A., 1980, Ground reaction forces in distance running, J. Biomech, 13:397-406.