The internal architecture plays an essential role in determining the functional features of skeletal muscle. Both length-force and force-velocity relationships depend on the spatial arrangement of muscle fibres in skeletal muscle. The degree of muscle pennation determines both the amount of contractile tissue packed along the tendons and fibre length, and is reflected by the force-generating capacity and shortening velocity of the muscle and by the elastic properties of the muscle-tendon complex. Until recently, knowledge on human muscle architecture was based on measurements performed on cadavers, whose muscle fibres were often shrunk by the preserving medium and by age. With the introduction of non-invasive imaging techniques, it has become possible to study muscle architecture in vivo at rest and the changes thereof upon contraction. This paper discusses the applications of these techniques, namely ultrasonography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, and their relevance in physiology and biomechanics.
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