Lower-limb stiffness and maximal sprint speed in 11-16-year-old boys
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
School of Medical and Health Sciences
The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between vertical stiffness, leg stiffness, and maximal sprint speed in a large cohort of 11-16-year-old boys. Three-hundred thirty-six boys undertook a 30-m sprint test using a floor-level optical measurement system, positioned in the final 15-m section. Measures of speed, step length, step frequency, contact time, and flight time were directly measured while force, displacement, vertical stiffness, and leg stiffness, were modeled from contact and flight times, from the 2 fastest consecutive steps for each participant over 2 trials. All force, displacement, and stiffness variables were significantly correlated with maximal sprint speed (p ≤ 0.05). Relative vertical stiffness had a very large (r > 0.7) relationship with sprint speed, whereas vertical center of mass displacement, absolute vertical stiffness, relative peak force, and maximal leg spring displacement had large (r > 0.5) relationships. Relative vertical stiffness and relative peak force did not significantly change with advancing age (p > 0.05), but together with maximal leg spring displacement accounted for 96% of the variance in maximal speed. It seems that relative vertical stiffness and relative peak force are important determinants of sprint speed in boys aged 11-16 years, but are qualities that may need to be trained because of no apparent increases from natural development. Practitioners may wish to use training modalities such as plyometrics and resistance training to enable adaptation to these qualities because of their importance as predictors of speed in youth.