Six men performed a single ankle plantar flexion exercise in the supine position with the maximal effort with counter movement (CM, plantar flexion preceded by dorsiflexion) and without counter movement (NoCM, plantar flexion only) produced by a sliding table that controlled applied load to the ankle (40 % of the maximal voluntary force). The reaction force at the foot and ankle joint angle were measured using a force plate and a goniometer, respectively. From real-time ultrasonography of the gastrocnemius medialis muscle during the movement, the fascicle length was determined. The estimated peak force, average power, and work at the Achilles' tendon during the plantar flexion phase in CM were significantly greater than those in NoCM. In CM, in the dorsiflexion phase, fascicle length initially increased with little electromyographic activity, then remained constant while the whole muscle-tendon unit lengthened, before decreasing in the final plantar flexion phase. In NoCM, fascicle length decreased throughout the movement and the fascicle length at the onset of movement was longer than that of the corresponding phase in CM. It was concluded that during CM muscle fibres optimally work almost isometrically, by leaving the task of storing and releasing elastic energy for enhancing exercise performance to the tendon.
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