Cycle Rate, Length, and Speed of Progression in Human Locomotion

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James G. Hay University of Auckland

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There have been few attempts to synthesize the knowledge gleaned from the study of cyclic human locomotion and, specifically, to determine whether there are general laws that describe or govern all such forms of locomotion. The purpose of this paper was to test the hypothesis that, when a human participant performs multiple trials of a given form of cyclic locomotion at a wide range of speeds (S) and without constraint on cycle rate (CR) or cycle length (CL), the relationships of CR vs. S and CL vs. S have the same basic characteristics as do those for any other form of cyclic locomotion. Data were gathered from published and unpublished sources. For each participant and form of locomotion, CR-vs.-S and CL-vs.-S relationships were plotted on a common scattergram with S on the abscissa and both CR and CL on the ordinate. Analysis of data collected on 49 participants and 12 forms of locomotion showed that, for every combination of participant and form of locomotion considered (excluding combinations involving simulated locomotion), the relationships of CR vs. S and CL vs. S had the same basic characteristics. These relationships were quadratic in form with CR-vs.-S concave upward and CL-vs.-S concave downward. The factor that made the greater contribution to increases in S was a function of S, with CL the primary factor at low S and CR the primary factor at high S. In short, the results obtained provided unequivocal support for the hypothesis of the study. The basic CR-vs.-S and CL-vs.-S relationships observed for forms of actual locomotion were also observed for some, but not all, of the forms of simulated locomotion examined.

The author is a Professor Emeritus with the University of Iowa. This research was conducted when he was with the Dept. of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

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