Changes in running mechanics and spring-mass behaviour during a 5-km time trial

Int J Sports Med. 2013 Sep;34(9):832-40. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1329958. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


Research into the biomechanical manifestation of fatigue during exhaustive runs is increasingly popular but additional understanding of the adaptation of the spring-mass behaviour during the course of strenuous, self-paced exercises continues to be a challenge in order to develop optimized training and injury prevention programs. This study investigated continuous changes in running mechanics and spring-mass behaviour during a 5-km run. 12 competitive triathletes performed a 5-km running time trial (mean performance: ̴17 min 30 s) on a 200 m indoor track. Vertical and anterior-posterior ground reaction forces were measured every 200 m by a 5-m long force platform system, and used to determine spring-mass model characteristics. After a fast start, running velocity progressively decreased (- 11.6%; P<0.001) in the middle part of the race before an end spurt in the final 400-600 m. Stride length (- 7.4%; P<0.001) and frequency (- 4.1%; P=0.001) decreased over the 25 laps, while contact time (+ 8.9%; P<0.001) and total stride duration (+ 4.1%; P<0.001) progressively lengthened. Peak vertical forces (- 2.0%; P<0.01) and leg compression (- 4.3%; P<0.05), but not centre of mass vertical displacement (+ 3.2%; P>0.05), decreased with time. As a result, vertical stiffness decreased (- 6.0%; P<0.001) during the run, whereas leg stiffness changes were not significant (+ 1.3%; P>0.05). Spring-mass behaviour progressively changes during a 5-km time trial towards deteriorated vertical stiffness, which alters impact and force production characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult