Neuromuscular factors determining 5 km running performance and running economy in well-trained athletes

  • Ari T. Nummela
  • Leena M. Paavolainen
  • Karen A. Sharwood
  • Mike I. Lambert
  • Timothy D. Noakes
  • Heikki K. Rusko
Original Article


This study investigated the effects of the neuromuscular and force–velocity characteristics in distance running performance and running economy. Eighteen well-trained male distance runners performed five different tests: 20 m maximal sprint, running economy at the velocity of 4.28 m s−1, 5 km time trial, maximal anaerobic running test (MART), and a treadmill test to determine VO2max. The AEMG ratio was calculated by the sum average EMG (AEMG) of the five lower extremity muscles during the 5 km divided by the sum AEMG of the same muscles during the maximal 20 m sprinting. The runners’ capacity to produce power above VO2max (MART VO2gain) was calculated by subtracting VO2max from the oxygen demand of the maximal velocity in the MART (V MART). Velocity of 5 km (V 5K) correlated with V MART (r=0.77, p<0.001) and VO2max (r=0.49, p<0.05). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that MART VO2gain and VO2max explained 73% of the variation in V 5K. A significant relationship also existed between running economy and MART VO2gain (r=0.73, p<0.01). A significant correlation existed between V 5K and AEMG ratio during the ground contact phase at the 3 km (r=0.60, p<0.05) suggesting that neural input may affect distance running performance. The results of the present study support the idea that distance running performance and running economy are related to neuromuscular capacity to produce force and that the V MART can be used as a determinant of distance-running performance.


Distance running performance EMG Ground contact time Running economy Stride length 



The authors wish to thank Mr Matti Salonen for his assistance in data collection and technical support. This research was supported by the grant from the Finnish Ministry of Education. The research of the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine is funded by the Harry Crossley and Nellie Atkinson Staff Research Funds of the University of Cape Town, the Medical Research Council, the National Research Foundation through the THRIP initiative and Discovery Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ari T. Nummela
    • 1
  • Leena M. Paavolainen
    • 1
  • Karen A. Sharwood
    • 2
  • Mike I. Lambert
    • 2
  • Timothy D. Noakes
    • 2
  • Heikki K. Rusko
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.KIHU—Research Institute for Olympic SportsJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South AfricaCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Biology of Physical ActivityUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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