Muscle contributions to fore-aft and vertical body mass center accelerations over a range of running speeds

J Biomech. 2013 Feb 22;46(4):780-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2012.11.024. Epub 2012 Dec 11.


Running is a bouncing gait in which the body mass center slows and lowers during the first half of the stance phase; the mass center is then accelerated forward and upward into flight during the second half of the stance phase. Muscle-driven simulations can be analyzed to determine how muscle forces accelerate the body mass center. However, muscle-driven simulations of running at different speeds have not been previously developed, and it remains unclear how muscle forces modulate mass center accelerations at different running speeds. Thus, to examine how muscles generate accelerations of the body mass center, we created three-dimensional muscle-driven simulations of ten subjects running at 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0m/s. An induced acceleration analysis determined the contribution of each muscle to mass center accelerations. Our simulations included arms, allowing us to investigate the contributions of arm motion to running dynamics. Analysis of the simulations revealed that soleus provides the greatest upward mass center acceleration at all running speeds; soleus generates a peak upward acceleration of 19.8m/s(2) (i.e., the equivalent of approximately 2.0 bodyweights of ground reaction force) at 5.0m/s. Soleus also provided the greatest contribution to forward mass center acceleration, which increased from 2.5m/s(2) at 2.0m/s to 4.0m/s(2) at 5.0m/s. At faster running speeds, greater velocity of the legs produced larger angular momentum about the vertical axis passing through the body mass center; angular momentum about this vertical axis from arm swing simultaneously increased to counterbalance the legs. We provide open-access to data and simulations from this study for further analysis in OpenSim at, enabling muscle actions during running to be studied in unprecedented detail.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Weight
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electromyography
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Young Adult