Changes in hip joint muscle-tendon lengths with mode of locomotion

Gait Posture. 2010 Feb;31(2):279-83. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2009.11.005.


We have reported that peak hip extension is nearly identical in walking and running, suggesting that anatomical constraints, such as flexor muscle tightness may limit the range of hip extension. To obtain a more mechanistic insight into mobility at the hip and pelvis we examined the lengths of the muscle-tendons units crossing the hip joint. Data defining the three-dimensional kinematics of 26 healthy runners at self-selected walking and running speeds were obtained. These data were used to scale and drive musculoskeletal models using OpenSIM. Muscle-tendon unit (MTU) lengths were calculated for the trailing limb illiacus, rectus femoris, gluteus maximus, and biceps femoris long head and the advancing limb biceps femoris and gluteus maximus. The magnitude and timing of MTU length peaks were each compared between walking and running. The peak length of the right (trailing limb) illiacus MTU, a pure hip flexor, was nearly identical between walking and running, while the maximum length of the rectus femoris MTU, a hip flexor and knee extensor, increased during running. The maximum length of the left (leading limb) biceps femoris was also unchanged between walking and running. Further, the timing of peak illiacus MTU length and peak contralateral biceps femoris MTU length occurred essentially simultaneously during running, at a time during gait when the hamstrings are most vulnerable to stretch injury. This latter finding suggests exploring the role for hip flexor stretching in combination with hamstring stretching to treat and/or prevent running related hamstring injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*