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Matej Supej, Kim Hébert-Losier and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Purpose:

Numerous environmental factors can affect alpine-ski-racing performance, including the steepness of the slope. However, little research has focused on this factor. Accordingly, the authors’ aim was to determine the impact of the steepness of the slope on the biomechanics of World Cup slalom ski racers.

Methods:

The authors collected 3-dimensional kinematic data during a World Cup race from 10 male slalom skiers throughout turns performed on a relatively flat (19.8°) and steep (25.2°) slope under otherwise similar course conditions.

Results:

Kinematic data revealed differences between the 2 slopes regarding the turn radii of the skis and center of gravity, velocity, acceleration, and differential specific mechanical energy (all P < .001). Ground-reaction forces (GRFs) also tended toward differences (P = .06). Examining the time-course behaviors of variables during turn cycles indicated that steeper slopes were associated with slower velocities but greater accelerations during turn initiation, narrower turns with peak GRFs concentrated at the midpoint of steering, more pronounced lateral angulations of the knees and hips at the start of steering that later became less pronounced, and overall slower turns that involved deceleration at completion. Consequently, distinct energy-dissipation-patterns were apparent on the 2 slope inclines, with greater pregate and lesser postgate dissipation on the steeper slope. The steepness of the slope also affected the relationships between mechanical skiing variables.

Conclusions:

The findings suggest that specific considerations during training and preparation would benefit the race performance of slalom skiers on courses involving sections of varying steepness.

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Thibault Lussiana, Kim Hébert-Losier, Grégoire P. Millet and Laurent Mourot

The effects of footwear and inclination on running biomechanics over short intervals are well documented. Although recognized that exercise duration can impact running biomechanics, it remains unclear how biomechanics change over time when running in minimalist shoes and on slopes. Our aims were to describe these biomechanical changes during a 50-minute run and compare them to those observed in standard shoes. Thirteen trained recreational male runners ran 50 minutes at 65% of their maximal aerobic velocity on a treadmill, once in minimalist shoes and once in standard shoes, 1 week apart in a random order. The 50-minute trial was divided into 5-minute segments of running at 0%, +5%, and –5% of treadmill incline sequentially. Data were collected using photocells, high-speed video cameras, and plantar-pressure insoles. At 0% incline, runners exhibited reduced leg stiffness and plantar flexion angles at foot strike and lower plantar pressure at the forefoot and toes in minimalist shoes from minute 34 of the protocol onward. However, only reduced plantar pressure at the toes was observed in standard shoes. Overall, similar biomechanical changes with increased exercise time were observed on the uphill and downhill inclines. The results might be due to the unfamiliarity of subjects to running in minimalist shoes.

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Kim Hébert-Losier, Kurt Jensen and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Purpose:

Jumping and hopping are used to measure lower-body muscle power, stiffness, and stretch-shortening-cycle utilization in sports, with several studies reporting correlations between such measures and sprinting and/or running abilities in athletes. Neither jumping and hopping nor correlations with sprinting and/or running have been examined in orienteering athletes.

Methods:

The authors investigated squat jump (SJ), countermovement jump (CMJ), standing long jump (SLJ), and hopping performed by 8 elite and 8 amateur male foot-orienteering athletes (29 ± 7 y, 183 ± 5 cm, 73 ± 7 kg) and possible correlations to road, path, and forest running and sprinting performance, as well as running economy, velocity at anaerobic threshold, and peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) from treadmill assessments.

Results:

During SJs and CMJs, elites demonstrated superior relative peak forces, times to peak force, and prestretch augmentation, albeit lower SJ heights and peak powers. Between-groups differences were unclear for CMJ heights, hopping stiffness, and most SLJ parameters. Large pairwise correlations were observed between relative peak and time to peak forces and sprinting velocities; time to peak forces and running velocities; and prestretch augmentation and forest-running velocities. Prestretch augmentation and time to peak forces were moderately correlated to VO2peak. Correlations between running economy and jumping or hopping were small or trivial.

Conclusions:

Overall, the elites exhibited superior stretch-shortening-cycle utilization and rapid generation of high relative maximal forces, especially vertically. These functional measures were more closely related to sprinting and/or running abilities, indicating benefits of lower-body training in orienteering.

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Thibault Lussiana, Cyrille Gindre, Kim Hébert-Losier, Yoshimasa Sagawa, Philippe Gimenez and Laurent Mourot

Purpose:

No unique or ideal running pattern is the most economical for all runners. Classifying the global running patterns of individuals into 2 categories (aerial and terrestrial) using the Volodalen method could permit a better understanding of the relationship between running economy (RE) and biomechanics. The main purpose was to compare the RE of aerial and terrestrial runners.

Methods:

Two coaches classified 58 runners into aerial (n = 29) or terrestrial (n = 29) running patterns on the basis of visual observations. RE, muscle activity, kinematics, and spatiotemporal parameters of both groups were measured during a 5-min run at 12 km/h on a treadmill. Maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max) and peak treadmill speed (PTS) were assessed during an incremental running test.

Results:

No differences were observed between aerial and terrestrial patterns for RE, V̇O2max, and PTS. However, at 12 km/h, aerial runners exhibited earlier gastrocnemius lateralis activation in preparation for contact, less dorsiflexion at ground contact, higher coactivation indexes, and greater leg stiffness during stance phase than terrestrial runners. Terrestrial runners had more pronounced semitendinosus activation at the start and end of the running cycle, shorter flight time, greater leg compression, and a more rear-foot strike.

Conclusions:

Different running patterns were associated with similar RE. Aerial runners appear to rely more on elastic energy utilization with a rapid eccentric-concentric coupling time, whereas terrestrial runners appear to propel the body more forward rather than upward to limit work against gravity. Excluding runners with a mixed running pattern from analyses did not affect study interpretation.

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Jorg Teichmann, Edin K. Suwarganda, C. Martyn Beaven, Kim Hébert-Losier, Jin Wei Lee, Florencio Tenllado Vallejo, Philip Chun Foong Lew, Ramlan Abdul Aziz, Yeo Wee Kian and Dietmar Schmidtbleicher

Context: Sensorimotor training is commonly used in a rehabilitative setting; however, the effectiveness of an unexpected disturbance program (UDP) to enhance performance measures in uninjured elite athletes is unknown. Objective: To assess the impact of a 3-wk UDP program on strength, power, and proprioceptive measures. Design: Matched-group, pre-post design. Setting: National sport institute. Participants: 21 international-level female field hockey athletes. Intervention: Two 45-min UDP sessions were incorporated into each week of a 3-wk training program (total 6 sessions). Main Outcome Measures: 1-repetition-maximum strength, lower-limb power, 20-m running speed, and proprioception tests were performed before and after the experimental period. Results: Substantial improvements in running sprint speed at 5-m (4.4 ± 2.6%; effect size [ES]: 0.88), 10-m (2.1 ± 1.9%; ES: 0.51), and 20-m (1.0 ± 1.6%; ES: 0.23) were observed in the UDP group. Squat-jump performance was also clearly enhanced when compared to the control group (3.1 ± 6.1%; ES: 0.23). Small but clear improvements in maximal strength were observed in both groups. Conclusions: A 3-wk UDP can elicit clear enhancements in running sprint speed and concentric-only jump performance. These improvements are suggestive of enhanced explosive strength and are particularly notable given the elite training status of the cohort and relatively short duration of the intervention. Thus, the authors would reiterate the statement by Gruber et al (2004) that sensorimotor training is a “highly efficient” modality for improving explosive strength.