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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Mechanical Power output from Striated Muscle during Cyclic Contraction
Robert K. Josephson


  1. 1. The mechanical power output of a synchronous insect muscle was determined by measuring tension as the muscle was subjected to sinusoidal length change and stimuli which occurred at selected phases of the length cycle. The area of the loop formed by plotting muscle tension against length over a full cycle is the work done on that cycle; the work done times the cycle frequency is the mechanical power output. The muscle was a flight muscle of the tettigoniid Neoconocephalus triops. The measurements were made at the normal wing-stroke frequency for flight (25 Hz) and operating temperature (30°C).

  2. 2. The power output with a single stimulus per cycle, optimal excursion amplitude, and optimal stimulus phase was 1.52 J kg−1 cycle−1 or 37W kg−1. The maximum power output occurs at a phase such that the onset of the twitch coincides with the onset of the shortening half of the length cycle. The optimum excursion amplitude was 5.5% rest length; with greater excursion, work output declined because of decreasing muscle force associated with the more rapid shortening velocity.

  3. 3. Multiple stimulation per cycle increases the power output above that available with twitch contractions. In this muscle, the maximum mechanical power output at 25 Hz was 76 W kg−1 which was achieved with three stimuli per cycle separated by 4-ms intervals and an excursion amplitude of 6.0% rest length.

  4. 4. The maximum work output during the shortening of an isotonic twitch contraction was about the same as the work done over a full sinusoidal shortening-lengthening cycle with a single stimulus per cycle and optimum excursion amplitude and phase.