The passive and stimulated engineering stress–large strain mechanical properties of skeletal muscle were measured at the midbelly of the rabbit tibialis anterior. The purpose of these experiments was to provide previously unavailable constitutive information based on the true geometry of the muscle and to determine the effect of strain rate on these responses. An apparatus including an ultrasound imager, high-speed digital imager, and a servohydraulic linear actuator was used to apply constant velocity deformations to the tibialis anterior of an anesthetized neurovascularly intact rabbit. The average isometric tetanic stress prior to elongation was 0.44 ± 0.15 MPa. During elongation the average stimulated modulus was 0.97 ± 0.34 MPa and was insensitive to rate of loading. The passive stress–strain responses showed a nonlinear stiffening response typical of biologic soft tissue. Both the passive and stimulated stress–strain responses were sensitive to strain rate over the range of strain rates (1 to 25 s−1). Smaller changes in average strain rate (1 to 10, and 10 to 25 s−1) did not produce statistically significant changes in these responses, particularly in the stimulated responses, which were less sensitive to average strain rate than the passive responses. This relative insensitivity to strain rate suggests that pseudoelastic functions generated from an appropriate strain rate test may be suitable for the characterization of the responses of muscle over a narrow range of strain rates, particularly in stimulated muscle.

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