Effects of load carrying on metabolic cost and hindlimb muscle dynamics in guinea fowl (Numida meleagris)

C. P. McGowan, H. A. Duarte, J. B. Main, A. A. Biewener

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31 Scopus citations


The goal of this study was to test whether the contractile patterns of two major hindlimb extensors of guinea fowl are altered by load-carrying exercise. We hypothesized that changes in contractile pattern, specifically a decrease in muscle shortening velocity or enhanced stretch activation, would result in a reduction in locomotor energy cost relative to the load carried. We also anticipated that changes in kinematics would reflect underlying changes in muscle strain. Oxygen consumption, muscle activation intensity, and fascicle strain rate were measured over a range of speeds while animals ran unloaded vs. when they carried a trunk load equal to 22% of their body mass. Our results showed that loading produced no significant (P > 0.05) changes in kinematic patterns at any speed. In vivo muscle contractile strain patterns in the iliotibialis lateralis pars postacetabularis and the medial head of the gastrocnemius showed a significant increase in active stretch early instance (P < 0.01), but muscle fascicle shortening velocity was not significantly affected by load carrying. The rate of oxygen consumption increased by 17% (P < 0.01) during loaded conditions, equivalent to 77% of the relative increase in mass. Additionally, relative increases in EMG intensity (quantified as mean spike amplitude) indicated less than proportional recruitment, consistent with force enhancement via stretch activation, in the proximal iliotibialis lateralis pars postacetabularis; however, a greater than proportional increase in the medial gastrocnemius was observed. As a result, when averaged for the two muscles, EMG intensity increased in direct proportion to the fractional increase in load carried.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1060-1069
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromyography
  • Locomotion
  • Muscle strain
  • Oxygen consumption


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