by: Anthony Campo
Most people have the ability to walk or run is some fashion. The idea is to become biomechanically sound in order to increase your current level (ie. advancing from walking to running,) and lower the risk of injury in the long run. You want mechanics that will allow for optimal intermuscular coordination along with a good balance between agonist and antagonist muscle groups. In this article I will discuss some biomechanics to focus on for optimal gait.
For optimal and efficient gait, opposing muscle groups would best be used together in order to move in an energy efficient manner, along with maintaining a balance of muscles in the body. For optimal and efficient gait the Gluteus Maximus and Hamstrings should be concentrically used in “push off” or propulsion. These muscles are used eccentrically during swing to stabilize the terminal swing leg itself. Immediately before and during this stage of swing, the opposite leg is transitioning from the loading response and mid-stance to terminal stance. In this transition, the stance leg can concentrically activate in the Hamstrings and Gluteus Maximus to “push off” and help propel the body. So the way that I see this is for efficient gait specifically between these stages is right after mid-stance of the standing leg, active propulsion should be engaged by concentric contraction of the Hamstrings and Gluteus Maximus. Meanwhile there is an eccentric contraction of the hip flexors to stabilize the pelvis. In the swing leg, there is a concentric contraction of the hip flexors, and an eccentric contraction of the Gluteus Maximus and Hamstrings to help stabilize pelvis. There are many other things going on here to stabilize the pelvis (ie: concentric contraction of gluteus medius during mid-stance of standing leg to stabilize pelvic drop,) however I am specifically referring to the balance of Gluteus Maximus/ Hamstrings and Hip flexors in order to discuss the importance of “push off” as it relates to optimal force production in gait. Using the concentric contraction of the standing leg’s glut max and hams while hip flex. Ecc, stabilize, along with how the concentric contraction of the hip flexors in the swing leg while the glut max and hams stabilize would allow for the best balance and force dispersion. As we know the body wants to be balanced, so if the body is trained to function this way, it will allow for optimal force production. Force production is directly related to stride length. The more force, the longer the stride length, and the less strides that need to be taken. Less strides makes for a more efficient gait. Another very important point is that training for this optimal balance between muscles such as the Hams/Gluts and Hip flexors will lower the chance of injury. If a muscular imbalance develops, such as stronger Hip flexors/Quads and weaker Hams/Gluts (this might happen if proper “push off” is not used) this would increase the risk of knee injury. When the agonist/antagonist muscles are not properly balanced, an atypical translation can occur in surrounding joints thus adding to unnecessary wear and tear.
On a side note, this is one of the reasons why the dead lift can be such an effective training tool. In regards to specificity, the dead lift trains directly the amount of force produced by driving the legs into the floor. There is s direct correlation between the amount of force production as measured by a dead lift and stride length.