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J Exp Biol. 1995 Feb;198(Pt 2):379-93.

External, internal and total work in human locomotion.

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Unité de Réadaptation, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.


The muscle-tendon work performed during locomotion can, in principle, be measured from the mechanical energy of the centre of mass of the whole body and the kinetic energy due to the movements of the body segments relative to the centre of mass of the body. Problems arise when calculating the muscle-tendon work from increases in mechanical energy, largely in correctly attributing these increases either to energy transfer or to muscle-tendon work. In this study, the kinetic and gravitational potential energy of the centre of mass of the whole human body was measured (using a force platform) simultaneously with calculation of the kinetic and potential energy of the body segments due to their movements relative to the body centre of mass (using cinematography) at different speeds of walking and running. Upper and lower boundaries to the total work were determined by including or excluding possible energy transfers between the segments of each limb, between the limbs and between the centre of mass of the body and the limbs. It appears that the muscle-tendon work of locomotion is most accurately measured when energy transfers are only included between segments of the same limb, but not among the limbs or between the limbs and the centre of mass of the whole body.

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