In this article, we are exploring ‘what is muscle elasticity?’ and how to increase muscle elasticity as an important aspect of our healthy lives as we grow older.
Properties of a Muscle
The collagen present in the elastic element of the muscle has two types of behavior when subjected to a tensile force.
One of them is the elastic behavior of the muscle, which through the elastic tissue present in the muscle fiber returns the tissue to its original length when a tensile force is removed.
Another type of behavior is plastic, which allows the muscle to adapt to the kind of overload that is imposed on it beyond its elastic range, so structural changes occur in the tissue, such as the tissue does not fit and returns to the original length when force is removed.
The muscle also has a combination of properties, viscoelasticity, which allows it to have elastic and viscous behavior simultaneously.
Unlike elasticity, viscoelasticity is time-dependent, so it acts on flexibility so that the muscle strain amplitude is proportional to both the applied force (elastic component) and the time it is applied (viscous component).
Finally, when a resting muscle is stretched and kept at a constant length for a while, there is a loss of tension called stress relaxation, which is due to its viscoelasticity.
Therefore, among the biomechanical factors, it is important to know the role of these properties in determining the extensibility amplitude of the muscle-tendon unit, always observing that the amount of tissue damage during stretching will be determined by factors such as degree of strength, the velocity with that force is applied and the extent of time.
Let’s look at the function of a muscle using those inherited characteristics.
Tip: Did you know Diabetes can affect your body muscles and its functions. Science has proven that Diabetes reduces body muscle mass in the long run. Therefore, it’s worth knowing the early warning signs of diabetes in women, men and children.
Functional Characteristics of a Muscle
If the concentric muscle action or shortening of a muscle, is preceded by eccentric muscle action (or pre-stretching), the resulting concentric action will be able to generate more force because of the elongation of the muscle. Muscle changes its characteristics by increasing its tension by storing potential elastic energy in the serial elastic component of the muscle. This pattern of eccentric contraction followed immediately by a concentric contraction is known as the shortening-elongation cycle.
What Happens When Muscle Shortening after Stretching?
Do you know what happens when muscle shortening contraction takes place during the time of 0.0 to 0.9 seconds after stretching? The elastic energy stored in your body recovers and becomes useful. But if you keep stretching for a longer period, the energy loses itself due to heat.
When your body muscles stretch completely, the muscle group stimulation occurs along with concentric muscle movement. This means, in the stretch-shortening cycle, elastic components contribute as well as neural components. Due to this process, the increase in concentric muscle action occurs for only 30% while the rest increases the energy for storage in the body.
Slow and Fast-twitch Fibers
One of the important factors in the stretch-shortening cycle is the types of fibers used in it. Slow and fast-twitch fibers give the response to the pre-stretching differently, and the stretching activity depends on them.
Muscles that possess fast fibers have more elastic energy as compared to slow fibers. In a short distance, they can pre-stretch at an extremely high speed. As in the fast-twitch fibers cross bridging of myosin takes place quickly, they can control the rapid elongation taking place.
Whereas, in slow-twitch fiber, cross-bridging occurs slowly and energy doesn’t get stored, which means that the small pre-elongation that takes place is of no advantage. But a benefit from the slow-twitch fiber is that of a vast range of motion from slow pre-stretching.
When we can give the response to stimulation, it is called irritability. Chemical neurotransmitters are responsible for the stimulation of muscles. For movement, the type and quantity of fibers control stimulation in the skeletal muscle, which is an editable tissue.
When stimulation in the muscle tissue is ample, the muscles can shorten, and this is called contractility. The distance on which the muscle shortening happens is finite due to the physical limitations of the human body.
50 to 70% is the shortening percentage of some muscles’ resting length. While 57 is the average percentage for all muscles’ resting length.
For example, upon removal and stimulation in a laboratory setup, the Sartorius shortens for more than it’s half, while in the human body, the position of the thigh and trunk along with hip joint limits the shortening distance.
Tip: Did you know when the heart muscles enlarge due to high blood pressure or an associated heart condition, the heart muscles loses its elasticity and contractility? It’s worth monitoring for Warning Signs of Hypertension.
Flexibility is considered one of the basic physical qualities of body fitness. It depends directly on joint mobility and muscle elasticity. However, for your physiological mechanism to be understood, it is necessary to understand the complex muscle structure.
Histologically there are four types of tissues among them, the muscle tissue that is formed by several protein filaments with different structures and functions. Of these, only the third filament – the titin – can change its shape when intended.
When the muscle is stretched, the Z lines move apart and the titin filaments that are connected to the stretch, working as a rubber band. The basis cell function analysis of muscle tissue and the important role-played by the third filament, to identify the possible implications of these mechanisms on flexibility. Faced with a review, it was concluded that the titin is the main responsible for the muscular elasticity, contributing as well as flexibility.
Tip: As you grow old muscles lose their elasticity, and that is a reason why as we grow old, the risk for sprain and muscle teas increases. For example, lower back pains, upper back pains, and leg aches become part of life for most as we age.
How to Increase Muscle Elasticity
Muscle Elasticity and flexibility is an important factor for both performing functional activities and achieving good athletic performance. It can be defined by the muscle’s ability to stretch, allowing one or two joints in series to increase its range of motion.
In general, it is well accepted that increased muscle flexibility of a musculoskeletal unit promotes performance improvement, as well as decreasing injury rates in sports practice from exercise.
Stretching exercises are widespread as part of a physical rehabilitation program and are also used in the various sport. Among the various existing stretching techniques, the most used are:
static stretching, and
proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
Ballistic stretching is characterized by cyclic movements where the muscle is rapidly stretched and immediately returns to its previous position. The effectiveness of this technique is questioned because a rapid muscle stretching sensitizes the spindle and consequently generates a protective contraction in response.
Thus, there is a higher risk of injury to the musculoskeletal junction, especially if used for rehabilitation purposes.
Static stretches are defined by stretching the muscle group, associated with a large range of motion and sustaining the stretching position for 15 to 60 seconds.
However, despite sustaining the stretching position with a consequent increase in muscle flexibility, after one hour, the decline observed in biomechanical variables with improved range of motion returned to its baseline values.
The last thing you would want is stained or reinjure muscle. You can prevent a muscle strain with some simple ways:
- Give your muscle time to heal from the injury
- Add a little muscle stretching in your daily routine
- Strengthen your muscle with some activities: sports or weightlifting will be helpful
- Always make sure to warm up before exercise or any intense activity
- Take high in potassium, such as avocados, a banana before any exercise to prevent muscle injuries
- Keep yourself hydrated during exercise
Consult a physiotherapist to get advice on steps to avoid muscle strains if you regularly strain them. In case, you have a muscle tear that requires medication, physical therapy or surgery, you need to be extra careful. Follow the expressly provided instruction of your doctor to prevent more damage.
Tip: Muscles are not the only human organs with elasticity. Intervertebral discs which hold our spine together also have elastic properties. With aging, flexibility diminishes, and we become prone to back pain due to disc bulging and disc protrusion.