• epaxial;
  • fascicle angle;
  • fibre bundle;
  • hypaxial;
  • skeletal muscle


Many training concepts take muscle properties such as contraction speed or muscle topography into account to achieve an optimal training outcome. Thus far, the internal architecture of muscles has largely been neglected, although it is well known that parameters such as pennation angles or the lengths of fascicles but also the proportions of fleshy and tendinous fascicle parts have a major impact on the contraction behaviour of a muscle. Here, we present the most detailed description of the intramuscular fascicle architecture of the human perivertebral muscles available so far. For this, one adult male cadaver was studied. Our general approach was to digitize the geometry of each fascicle of the muscles of back proper (Erector spinae) – the Spinalis thoracis, Iliocostalis lumborum, Longissimus thoracis and the Multifidus thoracis et lumborum – and of the deep muscles of the abdomen – Psoas minor, Psoas major and Quadratus lumborum – during a layerwise dissection. Architectural parameters such as fascicle angles to the sagittal and the frontal planes as well as fascicle lengths were determined for each fascicle, and are discussed regarding their consequences for the function of the muscle. For example, compared with the other dorsovertebral muscles, the Longissimus thoracis can produce greater shortening distances because of its relatively long fleshy portions, and it can store more elastic energy due to both its relatively long fleshy and tendinous fascicle portions. The Quadratus lumborum was outstanding because of its many architectural subunits defined by distinct attachment sites and fascicle lengths. The presented database will improve biomechanical models of the human trunk by allowing the incorporation of anisotropic muscle properties such as the fascicle direction into finite element models. This information will help to increase our understanding of the functionality of the human back musculature, and may thereby improve future training concepts.