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Glossary Term

Length Tension Relationship

The length/tension relationship refers to the amount of force a muscle can generate, which is dependent on the length of its sarcomeres. Optimal overlap between actin and myosin filaments results in maximal force production, while stretching or compressing the sarcomeres reduces force. This relationship has been extensively studied in vertebrate muscle fibers and is important in understanding muscle function and plasticity. Synonyms for length/tension relationship include muscle length-tension relationship, sarcomere length-tension relationship, and muscle force-length relationship.

Length/Tension Relationship: The amount of force generated by a muscle is dependent on sarcomere length.

  • The ability of sarcomere to maximally produce force occurs when sarcomere length results in optimal overlap between actin and myosin.¬†Stretching a sarcomere decreases overlap between actin and myosin filaments and reduces force production (1-3). When length is less than optimal, actin from opposite ends overlap and interfere with cross-bridging, and myosin filament are compressed as they contact the the Z-disk also reducing force (4)
  1. Gordon, A. M., Huxley, A. F., & Julian, F. J. (1966). The variation in isometric tension with sarcomere length in vertebrate muscle fibres. The Journal of physiology, 184(1), 170-192.
  2. Edman, K. A. P. (1966). The relation between sarcomere length and active tension in isolated semitendinosus fibres of the frog. The Journal of Physiology, 183(2), 407-417.
  3. Lieber, R. L., Loren, G. J., & Friden, J. (1994). In vivo measurement of human wrist extensor muscle sarcomere length changes. Journal of neurophysiology, 71(3), 874-881.
  4. Lieber, R. L. (2002). Skeletal muscle structure, function, and plasticity. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.




  1. Sarcomere length-tension relationship
  2. Muscle force-length relationship
  3. Muscle length-tension relationship