Modulation of joint and limb mechanical work in walk-to-run transition steps in humans

Neville J. Pires, Brendan S. Lay, Jonas Rubenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Surprisingly little information exists of the mechanics in the steps initializing the walk-to-run transition (WRT) in humans. Here, we assess how mechanical work of the limbs (vertical and horizontal) and the individual joints (ankle, knee and hip) are modulated as humans transition from a preferred constant walking velocity (vwalk) to a variety of running velocities (vrun; ranging from a sprint to a velocity slower than vwalk). WRTs to fast vrun values occur nearly exclusively through positive horizontal limb work, satisfying the goal of forward acceleration. Contrary to our hypothesis, however, positive mechanical work remains above that at vwalk even when decelerating. In these WRTs to slow running, positive mechanical work is remarkably high and is comprised nearly exclusively of vertical limb work. Vertical-to-horizontal work modulation may represent an optimization for achieving minimal and maximal vrun, respectively, while fulfilling an apparent necessity for energy input when initiating WRTs. Net work of the WRT steps was more evenly distributed across the ankle, knee and hip joints than expected. Absolute positive mechanical work exhibited a clearer modulation towards hip-based work at high accelerations (>3 m s-2), corroborating previous suggestions that the most proximal joints are preferentially recruited for locomotor tasks requiring high power and work production. In WRTs to very slow vrun values, high positive work is nevertheless done at the knee, indicating that modulation of joint work is not only dependent on the amount of work required but also the locomotor context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb174755
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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