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Josu Gomez-Ezeiza, Jordan Santos-Concejero, Jon Torres-Unda, Brian Hanley and Nicholas Tam

Purpose: To analyze the association between muscle activation patterns on oxygen cost of transport in elite race walkers over the entire gait waveform. Methods: A total of 21 Olympic race walkers performed overground walking trials at 14 km·h−1 where muscle activity of the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, medial gastrocnemius, and tibialis anterior were recorded. Race walking economy was determined by performing an incremental treadmill test ending at 14 km·h−1. Results: This study found that more-economical race walkers exhibit greater gluteus maximus (P = .022, r = .716), biceps femoris (P = .011, r = .801), and medial gastrocnemius (P = .041, r = .662) activation prior to initial contact and weight acceptance. In addition, during the propulsive and the early swing phase, race walkers with higher activation of the rectus femoris (P = .021, r = .798) exhibited better race walking economy. Conclusions: This study suggests that the neuromuscular system is optimally coordinated through varying muscle activation to reduce the metabolic demand of race walking. These findings highlight the importance of proximal posterior muscle activation during initial contact and hip-flexor activation during early swing phase, which are associated with efficient energy transfer. Practically, race walking coaches may find this information useful in the development of specific training strategies on technique.

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Nicholas Tam, Ross Tucker, Jordan Santos-Concejero, Danielle Prins and Robert P. Lamberts

Context: It is debated whether running biomechanics make good predictors of running economy, with little known about the neuromuscular and joint-stiffness contributions to economical running gait. Purpose: To understand the relationship between certain neuromuscular and spatiotemporal biomechanical factors associated with running economy. Methods: Thirty trained runners performed a 6-min constant-speed running set at 3.3 m·s−1, where oxygen consumption was assessed. Overground running trials were also performed at 3.3 m·s−1 to assess kinematics, kinetics, and muscle activity. Spatiotemporal gait variables, joint stiffness, preactivation, and stance-phase muscle activity (gluteus medius, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, peroneus longus, tibialis anterior, and gastrocnemius lateralis and medius) were variables of specific interest and thus determined. In addition, preactivation and ground contact of agonist–antagonist coactivation were calculated. Results: More economical runners presented with short ground-contact times (r = .639, P < .001) and greater stride frequencies (r = −.630, P < .001). Lower ankle and greater knee stiffness were associated with lower oxygen consumption (r = .527, P = .007 and r = .384, P = .043, respectively). Only  lateral gastrocnemius–tibialis anterior coactivation during stance was associated with lower oxygen cost of transport (r = .672, P < .0001). Conclusions: Greater muscle preactivation and biarticular muscle activity during stance were associated with more economical runners. Consequently, trained runners who exhibit greater neuromuscular activation prior to and during ground contact, in turn optimizing spatiotemporal variables and joint stiffness, will be the most economical runners.