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J Physiol. 1988 May;399:81-92.

The determinants of the step frequency in running, trotting and hopping in man and other vertebrates.

Author information

1
Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Università di Milano, Italy.

Abstract

1. During each step of running, trotting or hopping part of the gravitational and kinetic energy of the body is absorbed and successively restored by the muscles as in an elastic rebound. In this study we analysed the vertical motion of the centre of gravity of the body during this rebound and defined the relationship between the apparent natural frequency of the bouncing system and the step frequency at the different speeds. 2. The step period and the vertical oscillation of the centre of gravity during the step were divided into two parts: a part taking place when the vertical force exerted on the ground is greater than body weight (lower part of the oscillation) and a part taking place when this force is smaller than body weight (upper part of the oscillation). This analysis was made on running humans and birds; trotting dogs, monkeys and rams; and hopping kangaroos and springhares. 3. During trotting and low-speed running the rebound is symmetric, i.e. the duration and the amplitude of the lower part of the vertical oscillation of the centre of gravity are about equal to those of the upper part. In this case, the step frequency equals the frequency of the bouncing system. 4. At high speeds of running and in hopping the rebound is asymmetric, i.e. the duration and the amplitude of the upper part of the oscillation are greater than those of the lower part, and the step frequency is lower than the frequency of the system. 5. The asymmetry is due to a relative increase in the vertical push. At a given speed, the asymmetric bounce requires a greater power to maintain the motion of the centre of gravity of the body, Wext, than the symmetric bounce. A reduction of the push would decrease Wext but the resulting greater step frequency would increase the power required to accelerate the limbs relative to the centre of gravity, Wint. It is concluded that the asymmetric rebound is adopted in order to minimize the total power, Wext + Wint.

PMID:
3404473
PMCID:
PMC1191653
DOI:
10.1113/jphysiol.1988.sp017069
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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