An­kle power

Canadian Running - - Body Work -

Which mus­cle is the key to your run­ning stride? Your first in­stinct is prob­a­bly to think of big power gen­er­a­tors like the quadri­ceps and ham­strings. But ac­cord­ing to re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Jyväskylä, in Fin­land, the un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated he­roes of your gait are the an­kles. They used 3d gait anal­y­sis to mea­sure the force pro­duced by dif­fer­ent mus­cle groups while run­ning at var­i­ous speeds, and then com­pared those forces to the max­i­mum forces each mus­cle was ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing.

The re­sults, pub­lished in Medicine & Sci­ence in Sports & Exercise, showed that both the quadri­ceps (front of up­per leg) and an­kle ex­ten­sors ( back of lower leg) pro­duced forces equiv­a­lent to eight or nine times body weight dur­ing run­ning and sprint­ing. But while the quadri­ceps were ca­pa­ble of a max­i­mum force of nearly 14 body weights, the an­kles were al­ready near their max of about 10. That means your an­kles are con­stantly work­ing at a higher per­cent­age of max­i­mum than other leg mus­cle groups.

The same re­searchers pre­vi­ously showed that one of the big­gest dif­fer­ences be­tween older and younger run­ners is in an­kle strength, sug­gest­ing that loss of an­kle mus­cle is an im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to age-re­lated slow­ing. Does this mean that an­kle-strength­en­ing ex­er­cises like calf raises might help ward off the rav­ages of time? It’s an in­ter­est­ing hy­poth­e­sis, but it still needs to be tested.

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