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J Exp Biol. 2006 Oct;209(Pt 20):4051-60.

The landing-take-off asymmetry in human running.

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Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Mangiagalli, 32, 20133 Milan, Italy.


In the elastic-like bounce of the body at each running step the muscle-tendon units are stretched after landing and recoil before take-off. For convenience, both the velocity of the centre of mass of the body at landing and take-off, and the characteristics of the muscle-tendon units during stretching and recoil, are usually assumed to be the same. The deviation from this symmetrical model has been determined here by measuring the mechanical energy changes of the centre of mass of the body within the running step using a force platform. During the aerial phase the fall is greater than the lift, and also in the absence of an aerial phase the transduction between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy is greater during the downward displacement than during the lift. The peak of kinetic energy in the sagittal plane is attained thanks to gravity just prior to when the body starts to decelerate downwards during the negative work phase. In contrast, a lower peak of kinetic energy is attained, during the positive work phase, due to the muscular push continuing to accelerate the body forwards after the end of the acceleration upwards. Up to a speed of 14 km h(-1) the positive external work duration is greater than the negative external work duration, suggesting a contribution of muscle fibres to the length change of the muscle-tendon units. Above this speed, the two durations (<0.1 s) are similar, suggesting that the length change is almost totally due to stretch-recoil of the tendons with nearly isometrically contracting fibres.

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