Changes in muscle activation patterns when running step rate is increased

Gait Posture. 2012 Jun;36(2):231-5. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.02.023. Epub 2012 Mar 17.


Running with a step rate 5-10% greater than one's preferred can substantially reduce lower extremity joint moments and powers, and has been suggested as a possible strategy to aid in running injury management. The purpose of this study was to examine how neuromuscular activity changes with an increase in step rate during running. Forty-five injury-free, recreational runners participated in this study. Three-dimensional motion, ground reaction forces, and electromyography (EMG) of 8 muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, medial gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, medial and lateral hamstrings, and gluteus medius and maximus) were recorded as each subject ran at their preferred speed for three different step rate conditions: preferred, +5% and +10% of preferred. Outcome measures included mean normalized EMG activity for each muscle at specific periods during the gait cycle. Muscle activities were found to predominantly increase during late swing, with no significant change in activities during the loading response. This increased muscle activity in anticipation of foot-ground contact likely alters the landing posture of the limb and the subsequent negative work performed by the joints during stance phase. Further, the increased activity observed in the gluteus maximus and medius suggests running with a greater step rate may have therapeutic benefits to those with anterior knee pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*