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Scand J Med Sci Sports 2008: 18: 417426

Printed in Singapore . All rights reserved


DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00769.x

Copyright & 2008 The Authors


Journal compilation & 2008 Blackwell Munksgaard

Review

A review of research on the mechanical stiffness in running and


jumping: methodology and implications
M. Brughelli1, J. Cronin1,2
1

School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia, 2Institute of Sport
and Recreation Research New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland 1020, New Zealand

Corresponding author: M. Brughelli, School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, 100
Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027. Tel: 0061 86304 5152, Fax: 0061 86304 5036, E-mail: m.brughelli@ecu.edu.au
Accepted for publication 6 December 2007

Mechanical stiness (vertical, leg and joint stiness) can be


calculated during normal human movements, such as running and hopping. Mechanical stiness is thought to inuence several athletic variables, including rate of force
development, elastic energy storage and utilization and
sprint kinematics. Consequently, the relationship between
mechanical stiness and athletic performance is of great
interest to the sport and research communities. Unfortunately, these relationships are relatively unexplored by
researchers. For example, there are no longitudinal studies
that have investigated the eects of strength or power
training on mechanical stiness levels (calculated during

human running). In addition to reviewing the available


literature on the relationships between mechanical stiness
(calculated during human running) and functional performance, this review focuses its discussion on the various
equipment and methods used to calculate leg-spring stiness
during human running. Furthermore, future implications are
presented for practitioners and researchers based on both
the limitations and the gaps in the literature reviewed. It is
our hope that a better understanding of mechanical stiness
will aid in improving the methodological quality of research
in this area and its subsequent eect on athletic performance.

Stiness is often dened as the resistance of an


object or a body to a change in length (McMahon
& Cheng, 1990; Cavagna et al., 1991; Seyfarth et al.,
2002). It is thought that the mechanical stiness in
the human leg has a major inuence on various
athletic variables, including the following: rate of
force development, elastic energy storage and utilization and sprint kinematics (i.e. contact and ight
times, and stride length and frequency). However,
the optimal mechanical stiness required for movements such as running and jumping remains a topic
of debate for the scientic and sport communities.
For example, a few authors have argued that greater
mechanical stiness would be benecial for movements such as running and jumping (Chelly & Denis,
2002; Butler et al., 2003). These arguments have
been based on studies that have shown that vertical
and joint stiness increase with running velocity and
jumping height (McMahon & Cheng, 1990; Farley et
al., 1991; He et al., 1991). Conversely, one mechanical modelling study found that there is an optimal
mechanical stiness for long jumping and that
increasing this level would not enhance jump distance (Seyfarth et al., 2000). Furthermore, other
researchers have reported that elite high jumpers

have greater leg compliance than non-elite high


jumpers (Laaye et al., 2005). Unfortunately, there
have not been any longitudinal training studies that
have investigated the eects of training on mechanical stiness during human running. Nor has any
research been performed on the eects of dierent
mechanical stiness levels (induced by a training
intervention) on athletic performance. Until such
research is conducted, the full importance of mechanical stiness will remain unknown. This paper
reviews the relationships between vertical, leg and
joint stiness (calculated during human running)
and functional performance, i.e. running and jumping. In addition, other forms of stiness (tendon,
musculotendinous, and passive) that are thought to
inuence functional performance are reviewed. Specically, this paper discusses: (1) the equipment used
for calculating vertical, leg and joint stiness during
human running and (2) the various stiness calculation methods used in the literature. We feel that
reviewing the literature in this area will provide a
better understanding of mechanical stiness, and
will give valuable information on the directions
that need to be taken for researchers and practitioners in the future.

417

Brughelli & Cronin


Equipment and stiffness
The most common types of equipment used for
calculating vertical, leg and joint stiness during
human running include lm/video, force plates, kinematic arms, contact mats, and pressure sensors. Each
type of equipment has its strengths and weaknesses,
which are the focus of this section.
Force plate
Force sensors (i.e. force plates and force transducers)
have been used extensively in the literature for
measuring leg, vertical and joint stiness (Cavagna
et al., 1988; Belli et al., 1995). Ground reaction force
(GRF) can be directly measured with a force plate.
Cavagna (1975) demonstrated how to calculate vertical CM velocity and vertical CM displacement with
single and double integrations of GRF. Because peak
GRF and maximum CM displacements can be measured (both occurring at mid-stance), vertical stiness can be calculated during running. With other
mechanical parameters (e.g. contact time and horizontal velocity), leg stiness can also be measured
with a force plate (McMahon & Cheng, 1990).
However, force plates are very expensive and dicult
to transport. Also, the number of steps that can be
taken is limited with ground-mounted force plates.
One way to increase the number of strides that can be
analyzed is to use multiple force plates in a row.
Cavagna (1975) used a force plate made up of eight
individual force plates in series. However, not many
facilities have access to multiple force plates; thus,
the number of studies using them is limited.
Treadmills tted on top of force plates or force
transducers are becoming more prevalent in research
designs. The benet of using a force-sensing treadmill
is that multiple steps can be measured and analyzed
easily. The subjects can run for longer distances and
obtain constant velocities over dierent trials. Kram
et al. (1998) used force-sensing treadmill that could
measure all three planes (vertical, horizontal, transverse) during multiple strides.
Film/video
Film/video analysis is often used for recording displacements, velocities, and accelerations of various
segments or joints (Cavanagh et al., 1977; Vagenas &
Hoshizaki, 1992). Film/video analysis, in combination with force plate analysis, can also be used to
measure joint moments and ultimately joint stiness
(joint moment/joint displacement). However, the
digitizing process requires a considerable time, especially if there are large subject numbers or movements are of a long duration. The noise associated
with lm or video data analyses is considered to be

418

problematic (e.g. marker placement movement), thus


making it dicult to measure the displacement of the
CM during running accurately. One of the main
problems encountered is camera speed, which is
usually o120240 frames/s. The contact phase of
high-speed running can be less than 100 ms. Thus, a
camera that has a speed of 120 frames/s for 100 ms
will only give 12 frames that can be digitized. This
can lead to gross underestimations of segment or CM
displacements.
There is a paucity of research that has used video/
lm analysis to calculate vertical or leg stiness.
Luhtanen and Komi (1980), and (Mero and Komi
(1986) used a 13-segment rigid model and basic laws
of dynamics to determine vertical stiness from lm
analysis. From these data, CM displacement was
calculated and ultimately vertical stiness. Arampatzis et al. (1999) used a 15-model rigid segment model,
where only two segments (lower leg and upper leg)
were used to measure the change in leg spring length,
along with a force plate to measure GRF (Table 1).

Kinematic arm
Another piece of equipment that has been used to
measure the displacements of the center of mass has
been termed the kinematic arm (Belli et al., 1995).
The kinematic arm is made up of four light rigid bars
that are linked by three joints, with the distal end
attached to the subject while running or walking on a
treadmill. One end of the arm is connected to a
reference point and the other end (which is attached
to the subject) is allowed to move freely in all three
planes. With given arm (bar) lengths and angles, by
measuring the angles between bars using electrical
potentiometers, the instantaneous position of the
moving end relative to the reference end can be
calculated. The kinematic arm allows for recordings
of body displacement in all three planes.

Contact mats and pressure sensors


More recently, simple methods of calculating vertical
stiness and leg stiness have been proposed using
only a contact mat or pressure sensors (placed under
the insoles of shoes). Vertical stiness during hopping and running has been calculated from contact
time, aerial time, and body mass with the use of a
single contact mat (Dalleau et al., 2004; Morin et al.,
2005). Leg stiness during running has been calculated from leg length, forward velocity, body mass,
contact times, and aerial times. The pressure sensors
were used to calculate contact and aerial times, and a
radar gun was used to measure velocity (Morin et al.,
2006). The benet of using contact mats or pressure
sensors is that they are accessible to professionals in

Mechanical stiness
Table 1. Vertical and leg stiffness calculations

Study and stiffness type

Equipment needed

Formula

Vertical stiffness
McMahon and Cheng (1990)

Force plate

kvert 5 Fmax/Dy
where Fmax, maximum vertical force; Dy, maximum vertical displacement of
center of mass
kvert 5 mo2
where m, mass of body; o, natural frequency of oscillation
kvert 5 m(2P/P)2
where m, mass of the body; P, period of oscillation
kvert/m 5 (P(Tv1Tc))/(T2c(((Tv1Tc)/P)) (Tc/4)))
where Tv, flight time, Tc, contact time, and m, mass of body

McMahon et al. (1987)

Force plate

Cavagna et al. (1988)

Force plate

Morin et al. (2005)

Pressure sensors

Leg stiffness
McMahon and Cheng (1990)

Morin et al. (2005)


Arampatzis et al. (1999)

Force plate

Pressure sensors
Force plate and high-speed
video cameras

kleg 5 Fmax/DL
where Fmax, maximum vertical force; DL 5 Dy1L (1 cosy); y 5 sin (vTc/
2L); Dy, vertical displacement of the center of mass; v, forward velocity; L,
initial leg length
kleg 5 L (L2 ((vTc/2)).051Dy
where L, initial leg length; v, velocity; Tc, contact time;Dy, maximum vertical
displacement of center of mass
kleg 5 Fmax/DVCL
where Fmax, maximum vertical force; VCL, change is leg length derived from
video analysis

the eld, they are easy to use and are less expensive
than the other equipment.
Calculating stiffness
Vertical stiffness
There are four published methods for calculating
vertical stiness during human running. The McMahon and Cheng (1990) vertical stiness method
(VSM) is the rst and most commonly used method.
This method requires only two mechanical parameters: maximum vertical force and maximum vertical displacement of the CM (both are assumed to
reach maximum levels during the mid-stance phase).
Vertical stiness is equal to peak vertical force
divided by the maximum vertical displacement.
Cavagna (1975) was the rst to show how force
sensors could be used to calculate CM vertical
displacement from vertical force. Because force is
equal to mass multiplied by acceleration and because
mass remains constant, vertical force can be graphed
as vertical acceleration. Then, vertical acceleration
can be integrated to produce vertical velocity (single
integration), and then vertical velocity can be integrated to produce vertical displacement of the CM
(double integration). It should be noted that K refers
to dimensionless stiness as dened by McMahon &
Cheng (1990), and k refers to dimensional stiness.
The advantage of using dimensionless numbers and
calculations is that a wide range of animals and body
sizes could be compared on an equivalent basis, as
rst proposed by Alexander (1976) in an attempt to
estimate the speeds of dinosaurs.
The second method for calculating vertical stiness was detailed by McMahon et al. (1987) VSM.

The formula used by McMahon was: vertical stiness (kvert) equals mass (m) multiplied by the square
of the natural frequency of oscillation (o). A force
plate was used to calculate the vertical force contact
time curve (F/t curve). From the F/t curve, vertical
velocity could be calculated (single integration). With
contact time and vertical velocity, the natural frequency of oscillation (o) was calculated and ultimately vertical stiness was calculated (kvert 5 mo2).
Since McMahon et al. (1987), there have been no
other studies that have calculated vertical stiness
during human running with this method.
The third method for calculating vertical stiness
was used by Cavagna et al. (1988). Like the previous
two methods, a force plate is required from which the
F/t curve is generated and used to determine the
eective contact time (tce). The eective contact time
refers to the amount of time that vertical force is
greater than body weight during the stance phase,
and is expressed as (P/2) where P equals the period of
oscillation (see Fig. 1). The natural frequency of
oscillation can be calculated from (P/2) with
o 5 2P/P. Then, vertical stiness can be calculated
as kvert 5 mo2. Ultimately, the formulas used by
McMahon et al. (1987) and (Cavagna et al. (1988)
are the same. The two dierences are in how they
calculated the natural frequency of oscillation, and
dimensionless group of numbers (i.e. groucho
number) used by (McMahon et al. (1987). Since
Cavagna et al. (1988), only two other studies have
used this method for calculating vertical stiness
during human running (Cavagna et al., 2005;
Cavagna, 2006), and one study used this method to
calculate vertical stiness during human hopping
(Farley et al., 1991).

419

Vertical Force (body weight)

Brughelli & Cronin

1
Half period of oscillation
(P/T)
0

0.3
Time (sec)

Fig. 1. Forcetime curve relative to body mass. Schematic


representation of the half-period of oscillation in the force
time curve. The half-period of oscillation is measured as the
time when force is above body weight during the stance
phase of a bouncing gat.

The fourth method for calculating vertical stiness


during human running was described by Morin et al.
(2005). This is the only method that does not require
a force plate or a force transducer. With this method,
only contact time, aerial time and body mass are
needed for calculating vertical stiness. Contact and
aerial times were measured with two pressure sensors
that were taped under the insole of each shoe. Morin
et al. (2005) calculated vertical stiness by modelling
vertical force as a sine wave, which was rst introduced by Alexander (1989, 1992). The authors
argued that this method was appropriate because
force levels of a linear spring-mass model (once
perturbed) are expected to oscillate in the form of a
sine wave. From the sine wave, maximum vertical
force and maximum vertical displacement were calculated and thus vertical stiness was calculated.

to moderate velocities (  5.0 m/s) (He et al., 1991;


Farley et al., 1993; Morin et al., 2005). The reason
why leg stiness does not increase is because as the
maximum vertical force increases, the change in leg
spring length also increases.
The Morin et al. (2005) leg stiness method (LSM)
used initial leg length and forward velocity to calculate the change in leg spring length. Running velocity
was measured with a radar gun, and the initial leg
length was measured from the greater trochanter to
the ground. The results of Morin et al. (2005) were
compared with that of a reference method (McMahon & Cheng, 1990). The stiness values of Morin
et al. (2005) were found to range from 0.67% to
6.93% less than those of McMahon and Cheng
(1990) and thus were reported to be acceptable.
The advantage of using the Morin et al. (2005)
formulae is that stiness values can be calculated
without the use of force plates or force transducers.
A third method for calculating leg stiness was
described by (Arampatzis et al. (1999). Vertical force
was rst measured with a force plate. Then, leg
stiness was calculated and the results were compared with those of McMahon and Cheng (1990).
However, Arampatzis et al. (1999) measured the
change in leg length (a two segment model from the
hip joint to the knee joint to the ankle joint) with a
high-speed video, and reported much greater leg
stiness values (435 kN/m) compared with leg stiness values reported with the McMahon LSM
(o20 kN/m) (McMahon & Cheng, 1990; He et al.,
1991; Farley & Gonzalez, 1996; Morin et al., 2005).
The dierences between these two studies could be
explained by either a slow camera speed (thus underestimations of segment displacement) or by dierences in the measurements of leg length.
Joint stiffness

Leg stiffness
Leg stiness refers to the stiness of the entire leg as
though it acts like a single linear spring. Running
velocity needs to be measured accurately for the rst
two-leg stiness methods, which can be obtained
from a treadmill or a radar gun. The rst method
for calculating leg stiness was used by McMahon &
Cheng (1990). Vertical force was measured directly
from a force plate. The change in leg spring length
was calculated from running velocity, leg length, leg
landing angle, and the vertical displacement of the
CM. The leg landing angle was calculated from
contact time, running velocity, and initial leg length.
Leg stiness was then calculated as the ratio of
maximum vertical force to the maximum change in
leg length, which was measured during the stance
phase from the CM to the foot. Leg stiness has been
reported to remain constant with running velocity up

420

Joint stiness refers to the stiness of an individual


joint and is calculated as the ratio of joint moment to
angular joint displacement. There have only been
four studies that have calculated joint stiness during
human running (Stefanyshyn & Nigg, 1998; Arampatzis et al., 1999; Gunther & Blickhan, 2002;
Kuitunen et al., 2002). Three of these studies used
the same method for calculating joint stiness
(Stefanyshyn & Nigg, 1998; Gunther & Blickhan,
2002; Kuitunen et al., 2002). Force plates were used
to measure vertical and horizontal forces, and highspeed video cameras were used for the kinematic
analysis. Retroreective markers were placed on the
following anatomic landmarks: tip of the rst toe,
fth metatarsophalangeal joint, lateral malleolus,
lateral epicondyle of the femur, greater trochanter
and the acromion process of the scapulae. Once
digitized, the marker-position data were used to

Mechanical stiness
calculate joint angular displacements, velocities, and
accelerations. Joint moments for the hip, knee, and
ankle were calculated from inverse dynamics.
Anthropometric measurements were used to calculate segment masses, segment COM locations, and
segment moments of inertia. Then a rigid linkedsegment model was used to calculate the net muscle
moments at the ankle, knee and hip joints. This
process involved applying equations of angular and
translational motion to each segment, starting distally and moving proximally. All three studies found
that ankle joint stiness remained constant and knee
joint stiness increased with running speed. Thus, the
conclusion was that knee joint stiness is the major
modulator of leg stiness during running (Table 2).
Arampatzis et al. (1999) introduced a dierent
method for calculating joint stiness during human
running. Joint stiness was calculated as the ratio of
negative mechanical work to the change in joint
angle. Both kinetic and kinematic analyses were
used to determine work and the change in joint
angle. However, this method has been questioned
recently. Gunther and Blickhan (2002) argued that it
was not reasonable to divide a work integral by a
change in joint angle in order to calculate stiness.
There have been no other studies that have used the
formulae of Arampatzis et al. (1999) to calculate
joint stiness during human running.

Additional forms of stiffness


There are additional forms of stiness that are
thought to aect vertical, leg and joint stiness
during human running: musculotendinous stiness,
tendon stiness, and passive stiness. These stiness
types will be discussed briey in this section as they
have each been linked to running performance.
Musculotendinous unit (MTU) stiness can be cal-

culated with the oscillation technique (Wilson et al.,


1991, 1994; Walshe et al., 1996; Walshe & Wilson,
1997). With this technique, an active and loaded
MTU was perturbed and the free response was
recorded; thus, the human muscle was modelled as
a damped spring system. Any perturbation to this
system will result in damped oscillations.
Tendon stiness has been calculated with the use
of ultrasonography (Kubo et al., 1999, 2000,
2001a, b). The stiness of the tendon was calculated
as the slope of the force-tendon length curve. An
isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure joint
torque, which was then converted to muscle force
with the following formula: muscle force 5 stiness
(k) multiplied by torque (T), multiplied by crosssectional area (CSA) of the chosen muscle group.
Then, ultrasonography was used to measure tendon
displacement. This technique has been used to calculate tendon stiness for the quadriceps, hamstrings,
and plantar exors.
Passive stiness has also been calculated with the
use of an isokinetic dynamometer (Reid & McNair,
2004; Gajdosik et al., 2005). The subjects were placed
and secured in the dynamometer. Then, the chosen
joint was taken through a range of motion while the
subjects did not actively resist, which measured
passive resistance torque. Stiness was calculated as
the ratio of passive resistance torque to angular
displacement. Passive stiness has been calculated
in the hamstrings (Reid & McNair, 2004) and plantar
exors (Gajdosik et al., 2005).

Implications for future research and training


Stiffness and functional performance
Farley et al. (1991) and Granata et al. (2002)
reported that vertical stiness increased with hopping frequency when subjects hopped in the vertical

Table 2. Calculations for joint stiffness and additional stiffness types

Study and stiffness types


Joint stiffness
Stefanyshyn and Nigg (1998)
Arampatzis et al. (1999)
Musculotendinous stiffness
Wilson et al. (1991)
Tendon stiffness
Kubo et al. (1999)
Passive stiffness
Reid and McNair (2004)

Equipment needed

Formula

Force plate and high-speed


video camera
Force plate and high-speed
video camera

kjoint 5 Jm/Jd
where Jm, joint moment; Jk, joint angular displacement
kjoint 5 2W /Dy
where W , negative mechanical work; Dy, change in angular
displacement

Oscillation system

kmus 5 4mf2p21c2/4m
where m, mass of the bar-weights system; f, damped natural frequency;
c, the damping coefficient

Ultrasonography and
isokinetic dynamometer

ktendon 5 Fmax/Dy Fmax, maximum force; Dy, change in angular


displacement

Isokinetic dynamometer

kp 5 Tp/Dy Where Tp, passive joint torque; Dy, change in angular


displacement

421

Brughelli & Cronin


direction. Farley et al. (1991) reported that vertical
stiness increased by more than double (20440 kN/m)
as forward hopping speed increased from 1.0 to
3.0 m/s. The increase in vertical stiness resulted
from a decrease in contact time and an increase in
the rate of force development during the stance
phase. It was also reported that vertical stiness
increased with hopping height. From these ndings,
it has been suggested that bilateral jumping height
can be increased with greater levels of vertical stiness (Butler et al., 2003).
Arampatzis et al. (2001) studied the eects of
dierent landing heights (2060 cm) on leg stiness
during a rebound hop i.e. depth jump. Subjects were
allocated to ve groups based on how long they were
instructed to remain on the ground (contact time)
during the rebound. Arampatzis et al. (2001) found
that leg stiness decreased (15%) with landing height
across all ve groups. Walshe and Wilson (1997)
reported similar results when comparing depth jump
ability of sti subjects vs compliant subjects. It was
reported that the more compliant subjects had superior performances at the greater landing heights
(6080 cm), while there was no dierence at lower
landing heights (20 cm).
Only two studies have examined the eects of
stiness on single leg jumping performance (Seyfarth
et al., 2000; Laaye et al., 2005). Seyfarth et al.
(2000) performed a simulation study using a mechanical model during the stance phase of long jump.
With this model, leg stiness and the optimum takeo angle could be manipulated. It was reported that
there was a minimal level of leg stiness (16.2 kN/m)
required for maximizing jumping distance, and
increasing the leg stiness did not result in longer
jumps. Only one empirical study has investigated the
eects of stiness on single leg jumping performance
(Laaye et al., 2005). There were ve groups of
subjects for this study: high jumpers, volleyball
players, basketball players, netball players, and ve
novice jumpers. Laaye et al. (2005) found that leg
stiness decreased (15%) with jumping height in all
ve groups. Thus, it appears that leg stiness during
single leg jumping does not need to be increased in
order to enhance performance.
A number of studies have examined the relationship between tendon stiness and jumping performance. Walshe and Wilson (1997) reported that
MTU stiness was inversely correlated with the
dierence between the countermovement jump and
squat jump (R 5 0.54). This would suggest that a
tendon with less stiness would be more able to store
and return elastic energy, thus having a favorable
eect on the countermovement jump.
Ultrasonography has been used to determine tendon stiness in vivo (Kubo et al., 1999, 2001a, b).
Kubo et al. (1999) reported that tendon stiness

422

did not correlate with the squat jump or countermovement jump performance. However, an inverse
correlation was found between tendon stiness and
the dierence in jump height between the countermovement jump and squat jump (R 5 0.46). Kubo
et al. (2005) suggested that the combination of
greater storage of elastic energy (less tendon stiness)
and a greater re-use of elastic energy (less hysteresis)
would have favorable eects on stretchshorten
cycle exercises. Bojsen-Mller et al. (2005) reported
that tendon stiness correlated to a greater degree
with the squat jump (R 5 0.64) than the countermovement jump (R 5 0.55). However, their interpretation of the data was that becasue tendon stiness
correlated with both jumps, greater tendon stiffness was desirable for both types of jumps. It
should be noted that passive stiness and tendon
stiness are independent of each other (Kubo et al.,
2001a, b).
Correlation analysis and future directions
The relationship between human hopping in the
vertical direction and sprint performance has been
investigated recently. The authors suggested that
there are similar basic mechanical features between
hopping in place and forward running (Bret et al.,
2002; Chelly & Denis, 2002). Thus, both Chelly and
Denis (2002) and Bret et al. (2002) investigated the
correlation between vertical stiness during hopping
and sprinting performance. It should be noted that
correlations only signify relationships between variables and do not imply cause and eect. Bret et al.
(2002) reported that vertical stiness during hopping
was correlated (R 5 0.59) with maximum sprinting
velocity (from 30 to 60 m), but not with acceleration
(030 m) in elite sprinters. Chelly and Denis (2002)
also found a signicant correlation between vertical
stiness during hopping and maximum sprinting
velocity (R 5 0.68), but not with acceleration. Both
authors concluded that increasing leg stiness may
enhance maximum sprinting velocity. However,
these conclusions may not be accurate based on their
methodology. During human running, leg stiness is
mainly modulated by knee joint stiness (Gunther &
Blickhan, 2002; Kuitunen et al., 2002). There is
greater exion and moment change in the knee joint
relative to the hip and ankle joints during running.
Conversely, leg stiness is mainly determined by
ankle joint stiness during human hopping (Farley
et al., 1998). All four studies that have calculated
joint stiness during human running reported that
ankle joint stiness remained constant and knee joint
stiness increased with running speed (Arampatzis
et al., 1999; Gunther & Blickhan, 2002; Kuitunen
et al., 2002; Stefanyshyn & Nigg, 1998). Thus,
performing a correlation between human running

Mechanical stiness
and human hopping may not provided an insight into
the relationship between stiness and running performance. A better approach might be to investigate
correlations between vertical, leg or joint stiness during human running, with maximum running speed.
It is well established that vertical and joint stiness
increase with running speed (He et al., 1991; Farley
et al., 1993; Gunther & Blickhan, 2002; Kuitunen
et al., 2002; Morin et al., 2005). Based on these
ndings, some authors have speculated that running
speed might be enhanced with greater vertical or
knee joint stiness (Stefanyshyn & Nigg, 1998; Butler
et al., 2003). However, these speculations might be
pre-mature because the eects of altering stiness
levels (vertical, leg and joint) on running velocity are
unknown. Furthermore, it is not known how training
could aect mechanical stiness. Only one study has
calculated correlations between stiness and performance during human running (Morin et al., 2006) in
recreationally active male subjects (n 5 8). They did
not nd a signicant correlation between vertical
stiness and sprint times (average velocity) during
the 100 m dash. Unfortunately, there have not been
no studies that have investigated correlations
between vertical, leg or joint stiness (calculated
during human running) with maximum running
velocity in an athletic population.
It is also well established that leg stiness remains
constant from slow to moderate running speeds.
With the exception of Arampatzis et al. (1999), all
of the studies that have calculated leg stiness
during running (He et al., 1991; Farley et al., 1993;
Avogadro et al., 2004; Cavagna et al., 2005; Morin
et al., 2005) have reported that leg stiness remains
constant with increasing running velocity at slow to
moderate velocities. The eect of greater running
speeds on leg stiness is not known. Similar to
vertical and joint stiness, there have been no
studies on the eects of training of leg stiness, or
on how manipulating leg stiness could aect running speed.
Effects of strength training on stiffness
Many authors have suggested that greater values of
MT stiness are advantageous for sprint performance (Komi, 1986; Mero et al., 1992; Butler et al.,
2003). A stier MTU is thought to enhance the rate
of force development, which would aid in events that
require maximum force production over very short
time periods (i.e. the stance phase in sprinting). It has
been suggested that one of the purposes of strength
training was to increase the stiness of the MTU
(Komi, 1986). Wilson et al. (1991) reported that the
load lifted by their subjects (bench press) was signicantly correlated with MTU stiness. MTU stiness has also been reported to correlate with

isometric (R 5 0.50) and concentric (R 5 0.54) rates


of force development (Walshe et al., 1996) in the
lower body. Wilson et al. (1994) reported even
greater correlations between MTU stiness levels in
the upper body with isometric and concentric rates of
force development (R 5 0.57 and 0.78).
Kubo et al. (2006) investigated the eects of
isometric strength training (bilateral squat) on tendon stiness and jumping performance. After 14
weeks of isometric training, both tendon stiness
(14%) and squat jump height increased signicantly
(4.9%). Countermovement jump height was not
signicantly altered; thus, the dierence between
countermovement jump height and squat jump
height decreased by 28.3%. The authors suggested
that an increase in tendon stiness could negatively
aect the pre-stretch in stretchshorten cycle exercises.
Strength training has traditionally been used by
coaches and practitioners to enhance lower body
strength, power and sprint ability (especially the
acceleration phase). Unfortunately, there have been
no studies that have investigated the eects of
strength training on vertical, leg, or joint stiness
(calculated during human running). A greater understanding could be gained in this area if future studies
investigated the eects of strength training on both
stiness and sprint performance. This would provide
an insight into how strength-induced changes in
stiness (vertical, leg, and joint) aect sprint performance.

Effects of power training on stiffness


There are more studies appearing in the literature on
the eect of power training on stiness and other
factors related to stiness. Specic power training
usually involves jumps, weighted jumps, dynamic
resistance training or plyometric exercises. Cornu
and Goubel (1997) reported that after seven weeks
of power training, active stiness decreased by
32.7% but passive stiness increased by 58.2%.
From a functional point of view, Cornu and
Goubel (1997) speculated that an increase in passive
stiness would be desirable for rate of force development and a simultaneous decrease in active stiness would be desirable for storing and re-using
elastic energy.
Hunter and Marshall (2002) reported that after
6 weeks of power training, eccentric lower body
stiness decreased (1.12.3%) calculated from their
subjects performing depth jumps at heights of 30, 60
and 90 cm. Also, eccentric lower body stiness
increased (1.8%) during countermovement jump
assessment. The dierent results could be due to the
requirements of the specic jump being performed.

423

Brughelli & Cronin


Only one study has investigated the eects of
physical training on vertical stiness and jumping
performance. Toumi et al. (2004) investigated the
eects of complex training (plyometrics combined
with the leg press machine) on vertical stiness and
jump performance. After six weeks of training, squat
jump height increased by 11.3%, countermovement
jump height increased by 13.2% and knee joint
stiness increased by 8.2%. Because both strength
and power exercises were used, it is dicult to
disentangle the cause of these adaptations.
Specic power training programs have also been
used in order to change muscle architecture (fascicle
length) (Blazevich et al., 2003; Alegre et al., 2006),
which is thought to inuence MTU stiness and
human running performance. A change in fascicle
length to longer lengths would have implications for
the forcelength relationship. The change in length is
thought to be due to sarcomereogenesis, or an
addition of sarcomeres in series, which would shift
the lengthtension relationship to longer lengths
(Alegre et al., 2006). It has been speculated that
this change to the length-tension relationship would
allow the muscle to operate at its optimum length
(i.e. joint angle) for longer periods, thus resulting in
greater force outputs at higher rates (Alegre et al.,
2006). It has been reported that elite male and female
sprinters have longer fascicle lengths than non-elite
male (Kumagai et al., 2000) and female sprinters
(Abe et al., 2001).
Alegre et al. (2006) investigated the eects of
power training on fascicle length of the vastus
lateralis. The exercise protocol consisted of halfsquats performed at 30% to 460% of the subjects
one rep maximum (1RM). At the end of the study,
the subjects increased their fascicle length (13%),
muscle thickness (6.9%), rate of force development
(23%), and amount of force produced in the rst
500 ms (11.7%). Blazevich et al. (2003) reported
similar ndings when performing power training
with light loads at high velocities. Fascicle length
increased by (24.9%) after 5 weeks of sprint and
jump training; however, neither sprint nor jump
performance increased. The lack of change in the
athletic performance measures could be due to the
short intervention period (5 weeks) or the concurrent
in-season training the subjects were already performing. More research is needed in this area with longer
training periods taking place outside of the training
season.
Power training has been shown to be eective at
enhancing sprint and jumping performance. However, it is not known how power training aects
vertical, leg or joint stiness. Nor is it known how
these changes might aect sprint performance. Until
training studies investigate how stiness can be
altered with training, the eects of stiness on sprint

424

performance will remain a topic of confusion and


controversy.

Effects of eccentric exercise on stiffness


Eccentric exercise has been reported to aect passive
stiness and has been associated with enhancing
sprint performance. Reich et al. (2000) reported
that an eccentric-based exercise program increased
passive stiness and the length of optimum length of
force development in rats. The increase in passive
stiness after eccentric exercise has also been
reported in humans. Pousson et al. (1990) reported
an increase in passive stiness after eccentrically
training the elbow exors. The increase in passive
stiness was thought to be due to an increase in titin
lament expression, which is responsible for the
majority of passive tension at longer muscle lengths
(Reich et al., 2000). It has been suggested that
eccentric exercise causes an increase in passive stiness (due to the titin lament), which could enhance
athletic performance during running and jumping
(Reich et al., 2000; Lindstedt et al., 2002; LaStayo
et al., 2003).
Eccentric exercise has also been reported to
increase the optimum length of force development
and induce sarcomereogenesis. It could be speculated
that eccentric exercise could also cause an increase in
fascicle length. All of these adaptations would cause
alterations in MTU stiness, and possibly vertical,
leg and joint stiness during human running. More
research is needed on the eects of eccentric exercise
on stiness and running performance.
Similar to power and strength training, the eects
of eccentric training on stiness have not been
studied. Future studies should investigate the eects
of various training methods, including eccentric
training, on stiness (vertical, leg, and joint) and
how these changes aect sprint performance.
Mechanical stiness can be calculated during normal human movements and thus has been an area of
interest for researchers and practitioners for many
years. It is thought that the mechanical stiness has a
major inuence on functional performance. However,
the optimal amount of stiness required for movements such as running and jumping remains controversial. Consequently, experimental research that
investigates the eects of strength and power training
on stiness levels needs to be conducted. Furthermore, research needs to investigate the inuence that
these changes will have on performance. Currently,
the optimum amount of stiness levels for functional
performance is based on correlation analysis and thus
should be considered to be speculative at best.
Key words: stiness, spring, running, jumping.

Mechanical stiness
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