Electrical activity and length changes of 11 muscles of the fore- and hind- limbs of dogs walking, running, and galloping on a treadmill, were measured as a function of forward speed and gait. Our purpose was to find out whether the activity patterns of the major limb muscles were consistent with the two mechanisms proposed for storage and recovery of energy within a stride: a ‘pendulum-like’ mechanism during a walk, and a ‘spring-like’ mechanism during a run. In the stance phase of the walking dog, we found that the supraspinatus, long head of the triceps brachii, biceps brachii, vastus lateralis, and gastrocnemius underwent only minor length changes during a relatively long portion of their activity, Thus, a major part of their activity during the walk seems consistent with a role in stabilization of the joints as the dog ‘pole-vaulted’ over its limbs (and thereby conserved energy). In the stance phase of trotting and/or galloping dogs, we found that the supraspinatus, lateral head of the triceps, vastus lateralis, and gastrocnemius were active while being stretched prior to shortening (as would be required for elastic storage of energy), and that this type of activity increased with increasing speed. We also found muscular activity in the select limb flexors that was consistent with storage of kinetic energy at the end of the swing phase and recovery during the propulsive stroke. This activity pattern was apparent in the latissimus dorsi during a walk and trot, and in the biceps femoris during a trot and gallop. We conclude that, during locomotion, a significant fraction of the electrical activity of a number of limbs muscles occurs while they undergo little or no length change or are being stretched prior to shortening and that these types of activities occur in a manner that would enable the operation of pendulum-like and spring-like mechanisms for conserving energy within a stride. Therefore these forms of muscular activity, in addition to the more familiar activity associated with muscle shortening, should be considered to be important during locomotion.
- © 1981 by Company of Biologists