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Centre for Human Performance

Biomechanics of Race Walking

Leeds Beckett University is the world's leading centre for studies of the biomechanics of race walking. We have analysed multiple Olympic and World Championship medallists and led multiple developments in the study of this unique form of competitive gait.

Biomechanics of Race Walking

The Challenge

Race walking is a highly technical event that forms part of the track and field athletics programme at all major championships. The considerable body of biomechanical research that has taken place at Leeds Beckett University has created new appreciations of the event for coaches, especially with regard to neuromuscular aspects, and has helped develop athletes, particularly those based at the UK Centre for Race Walking.

The Approach

Data on elite athletes has been collected in competition (e.g., World Race Walking Team Championships, 2008 and 2012) as well as in the laboratory at Leeds Beckett University. These include studies on variability and symmetry, muscle activity, work-energy patterns, effects of fatigue during over ground and treadmill race walking, neuromuscular factors and advanced gait analysis (using optoelectronics).

The Impact

Findings from the extensive research have been adopted into the world governing body’s (World Athletics) planned developments for how the event will be judged better in the future, as well as how it will be presented to its global audience. More locally, findings from the ongoing studies have been adopted by British Athletics as part of its programme for athlete development. Coaches now incorporate training methods into their sessions with athletes to develop the neuromuscular aspects that the research has identified, such as eccentric muscle training. With our advanced understanding of how the race walker moves (especially in contrast to how runners move), coaches visit the laboratory with their athletes to assess their performance strength and weaknesses, potential sites of injury before they occur, and any lower limb asymmetries.

Outputs and recognition

  • Hanley, B. & Tucker, C. B. (2019). Reliability of the OptoJump Next system for measuring temporal values in elite racewalking. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(12), pp.3438-3443
  • Gomez-Ezeiza, J., Santos-Concejero, J., Torres-Unda, J., Hanley, B. & Tam, N. (2019). Muscle activation patterns correlate with race walking economy in elite race walkers: A waveform analysis. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 14(9), pp.1250-1255
  • Hanley, B., Tucker, C. B. & Bissas, A. (2019). Assessment of IAAF racewalk judges’ ability to detect legal and non-legal technique. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1, 9
  • Hanley, B., Tucker, C. B. & Bissas, A. (2018). Differences between motion capture and video analysis systems in calculating knee angle in elite-standard race walking. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36(11), pp.1250-1255
  • Tucker, C. B. & Hanley, B. (2017). Gait variability and symmetry in world-class senior and junior race walkers. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(17), pp.1739-1744
  • Hanley, B. & Bissas, A. (2017). Analysis of lower limb work-energy patterns in world-class race walkers. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(10), pp.960-966
  • Hanley, B. & Drake, A. (2016). Effectiveness of popular race walking drills in activating key muscles. New Studies in Athletics, 31(3/4), pp.81-88
  • Cronin, N. J., Hanley, B. & Bissas, A. (2016). Mechanical and neural function of triceps surae in elite racewalking. Journal of Applied Physiology, 121(1), pp.101-105
  • Hanley, B. & Bissas, A. (2016). Ground reaction forces of Olympic and World Championship race walkers. European Journal of Sport Science, 16(1), pp.50-56
  • Hanley, B. (2014). Training and injury profiles of international race walkers. New Studies in Athletics, 29(4), pp.17-23
  • Hanley, B., Bissas, A. & Drake, A. (2014). Technical characteristics of elite junior men and women race walkers. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 54(6), pp.700-707
  • Hanley, B. & Bissas, A. (2013). Analysis of lower limb internal kinetics and electromyography in elite race walking. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(11), pp.1222-1232
  • Hanley, B., Bissas, A. & Drake, A. (2013). Kinematic characteristics of elite men’s 50 km race walking. European Journal of Sport Science, 13(3), pp.272-279
  • Hanley, B. (2013). An analysis of pacing profiles of world-class racewalkers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8(4), pp.435-441
  • Smith, L. C. & Hanley, B. (2013). Comparisons between swing phase characteristics of race walkers and distance runners. International Journal of Exercise Science, 6(4), pp.269-277
  • Hanley, B. (2013). A biomechanical analysis of world-class senior and junior race walkers. New Studies in Athletics, 28(1/2), pp.75-82
  • Hanley, B. & Bissas, A. (2012). Biomechanical analysis of leg asymmetry in young international race walkers. New Studies in Athletics, 27(1/2), pp.57-63
  • Hanley, B., Bissas, A. & Drake, A. (2011). Kinematic characteristics of elite men’s and women’s 20 km race walking and their variation during the race. Sports Biomechanics, 10(2), pp.110-124

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