Normal walking and running have a certain degree of vertical oscillation, but we do not want too much

Normal walking and running have a certain degree of vertical oscillation, but we do not want too much, we want the body to move along mostly horizontal path but we do need some dampening of impact loads. We do not want to waste too much energy bouncing up and down. This is mitigated quite a bit by hip and knee flexion, the knee is well positioned to do this the easiest in many cases. Pronation and ankle dorsiflexion do dampen loads as well.

Ivo and I just recorded a class on leg length discrepancies. Here are some factors to keep in mind if there is even the smallest leg length discrepancy, anatomic or functional.

-the short leg may hyperextend at the knee , externally rotate at the hip, as well as supinate the foot (this supination is relative ankle plantarflexion, which can set up increased protective tone in calf complex and reduced strength and exposure to anterior compartment).

-the long leg side may knee flex , internally rotate at the hip, and as well as pronate at the foot (this is relative ankle Dorsiflexion)

Both of these scenarios can be going on at the same time on either leg, or it can be only on one leg. We are not perfectly symmetrical organisms, so these things can set up to help us run and walk more effortlessly, to compensate to get the head and neck properly positioned (normalizing the visual and vestibular centers on the horizon) for balance and movement through the 3 cardinal planes, and to compensate around challenging anatomy or biomechanics.

This is a complex machine, with infinite abilities to compensate and cope. But what we see is the compensation, not the problem. The joint range losses in one joint, the excesses in another, the weakness in one area, the over protection in another, the failure to tolerate loads in another, are all ways of coping and keeping us moving, . . . . . . but sometimes at a cost. . . . . pain.

shawn and ivo, the gait guys

Usain… Again!!! How good are your powers of observation?

Take a look at this video again. Yes, we have shown it many times before. It is from a 2001 race in Monaco.

These are all incredible athletes. What can we note about the fastest of the fast?

  • Most of them have excellent hip extension (ok, the gent immediately to Usain’s right does not appear to be optimal)
  • the fastest of the pack have a upright head posture with the neck neutral or in slight extension (gents in lanes 1, 3 and 6; notice the head forward posture of the others)
  • minimal heel rebound (see our last post on this here)
  • minimal torso motion (note the increased torso motion  with arm swing of the gents in lanes 1, 3, 4 and 5)
  • symmetrical hip flexion, with the thigh parallel or nearly parallel to the ground in float phase
  • what else?

Watch it a few more times. It took us a while too…

Really, go watch it again…

Did you see it?

Watch the vertical oscillation of the runners. At this level (or any level for that matter), outside of improving biomechanics and neuromechanics, there are really only a few things you can do to run faster. One is to have a faster cadence and another is to have a longer stride length. You can control both, but if not done concurrently, one gets better at the expense of the other.

If your cadence is slower and you try and increase stride length, you increase your vertical oscillation (ie: how much you bounce up and down). Note the handrail at the far side of the track. It makes a convenient marker for vertical oscillation. Watch this bar and watch the video again. Usain and the gent in lane 6 (Nesta Carter) have little vertical oscillation compared to the rest of the pack. Note also the close finish. difficult to say if Usain’s knee or Carters foot crossed 1st. Usiain’s time was 9.88 and Nesta’s 9.90.

Decreased cadence = Increased vertical oscillation = Less horizontal motion = Slower speeds

How about watching this video a few more times and telling us what else is up?

The Gait Guys. We are trying to help you improve your powers of observation while stretching your mind. Are we succeeding? We hope so!

Ivo and Shawn