Scaling relationships between human leg muscle architectural properties and body size

Jongsang Son, Samuel R. Ward, Richard L. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A skeletal muscle’s peak force production and excursion are based on its architectural properties that are, in turn, determined by its mass, muscle fiber length and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA). In the classic interspecific study of mammalian muscle scaling, it was demonstrated that muscle mass scales positively allometrically with body mass whereas fiber length scales isometrically with body mass, indicating that larger mammals have stronger leg muscles than they would if they were geometrically similar to smaller ones. Although this relationship is highly significant across species, there has never been a detailed intraspecific architectural scaling study. We have thus created a large dataset of 896 muscles across 34 human lower extremities (18 females and 16 males) with a size range including approximately 90% and 70% of the United States population height and mass, respectively, across the range 36–103 years. Our purpose was to quantify the scaling relationships between human muscle architectural properties and body size. We found that human muscles depart greatly from isometric scaling because muscle mass scales with body mass1.3 (larger exponent than isometric scaling of 1.0) and muscle fiber length scales with negative allometry with body mass0.1 (smaller exponent than isometric scaling of 0.33). Based on the known relationship between architecture and function, these results suggest that human muscles place a premium on muscle force production (mass and PCSA) at the expense of muscle excursion (fiber length) with increasing body size, which has implications for understanding human muscle design as well as biomechanical modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb246567
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


  • Allometry
  • Biomechanical modeling
  • Muscle architecture
  • Muscle design
  • Muscle fiber length


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