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      Is There an Economical Running Technique? A Review of Modifiable Biomechanical Factors Affecting Running Economy

      review-article
      Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.)
      Springer International Publishing

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          Abstract

          Running economy (RE) has a strong relationship with running performance, and modifiable running biomechanics are a determining factor of RE. The purposes of this review were to (1) examine the intrinsic and extrinsic modifiable biomechanical factors affecting RE; (2) assess training-induced changes in RE and running biomechanics; (3) evaluate whether an economical running technique can be recommended and; (4) discuss potential areas for future research. Based on current evidence, the intrinsic factors that appeared beneficial for RE were using a preferred stride length range, which allows for stride length deviations up to 3 % shorter than preferred stride length; lower vertical oscillation; greater leg stiffness; low lower limb moment of inertia; less leg extension at toe-off; larger stride angles; alignment of the ground reaction force and leg axis during propulsion; maintaining arm swing; low thigh antagonist–agonist muscular coactivation; and low activation of lower limb muscles during propulsion. Extrinsic factors associated with a better RE were a firm, compliant shoe–surface interaction and being barefoot or wearing lightweight shoes. Several other modifiable biomechanical factors presented inconsistent relationships with RE. Running biomechanics during ground contact appeared to play an important role, specifically those during propulsion. Therefore, this phase has the strongest direct links with RE. Recurring methodological problems exist within the literature, such as cross-comparisons, assessing variables in isolation, and acute to short-term interventions. Therefore, recommending a general economical running technique should be approached with caution. Future work should focus on interdisciplinary longitudinal investigations combining RE, kinematics, kinetics, and neuromuscular and anatomical aspects, as well as applying a synergistic approach to understanding the role of kinetics.

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          Most cited references163

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          Energetics of running: a new perspective.

          The amount of energy used to run a mile is nearly the same whether it is run at top speed or at a leisurely pace (although it is used more rapidly at the higher speed). This puzzling independence of energy cost and speed is found generally among running animals, although, on a per gram basis, cost is much higher for smaller animals. Running involves little work against the environment; work is done by muscles and tendons to lift and accelerate the body and limbs. Some of the work is recovered from muscle-tendon springs without metabolic cost and work rate does not parallel metabolic rate with either speed or size. Regardless of the amount of work muscles do, they must be activated and develop force to support the weight of the body. Load-carrying experiments have shown that the cost of supporting an extra newton of load is the same as the weight-specific cost of running. Size differences in cost are proportional to stride frequency at equivalent speeds, suggesting that the time available for developing force is important in determining cost. We report a simple inverse relationship between the rate of energy used for running and the time the foot applies force to the ground during each stride. These results support the hypothesis that it is primarily the cost of supporting the animal's weight and the time course of generating this force that determines the cost of running.
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            Lower extremity stiffness: implications for performance and injury

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              .VO2max: what do we know, and what do we still need to know?

              B Levine (2008)
              Maximal oxygen uptake (.VO(2,max)) is a physiological characteristic bounded by the parametric limits of the Fick equation: (left ventricular (LV) end-diastolic volume--LV end-systolic volume) x heart rate x arterio-venous oxygen difference. 'Classical' views of .VO(2,max) emphasize its critical dependence on convective oxygen transport to working skeletal muscle, and recent data are dispositive, proving convincingly that such limits must and do exist. 'Contemporary' investigations into the mechanisms underlying peripheral muscle fatigue due to energetic supply/demand mismatch are clarifying the local mediators of fatigue at the skeletal muscle level, though the afferent signalling pathways that communicate these environmental conditions to the brain and the sites of central integration of cardiovascular and neuromotor control are still being worked out. Elite endurance athletes have a high .VO(2,max) due primarily to a high cardiac output from a large compliant cardiac chamber (including the myocardium and pericardium) which relaxes quickly and fills to a large end-diastolic volume. This large capacity for LV filling and ejection allows preservation of blood pressure during extraordinary rates of muscle blood flow and oxygen transport which support high rates of sustained oxidative metabolism. The magnitude and mechanisms of cardiac phenotype plasticity remain uncertain and probably involve underlying genetic factors, as well as the length, duration, type, intensity and age of initiation of the training stimulus.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                +44 (0)2920 416342 , imoore@cardiffmet.ac.uk
                Journal
                Sports Med
                Sports Med
                Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.)
                Springer International Publishing (Cham )
                0112-1642
                1179-2035
                27 January 2016
                27 January 2016
                2016
                : 46
                : 793-807
                Affiliations
                Cardiff School of Sport, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, CF23 6XD Wales, UK
                Article
                474
                10.1007/s40279-016-0474-4
                4887549
                26816209
                0bae0336-64f5-440c-a68f-526b048ef5b5
                © The Author(s) 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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                © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

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