The Effects of Uphill, Downhill, and Lateral Roll Treadmill Running: An EMG, Kinematic, and Metabolic Analysis

Open Access
Woltz, Katherine Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jinger S. Gottschall, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stephen Jacob Piazza, Honors Advisor
  • biomechanics
  • kinematics
  • metabolics
  • electromyography
  • running
  • treadmill
  • frontal plane roll
Previous research has confirmed that training on a sagittal plane tilt can elicit performance benefits that translate into level running, so it is interesting to see whether this holds true for a training program that incorporates running on a combination of left and right frontal plane roll. It would be extremely useful to the world of sports to determine whether this type of training would increase the runner’s ability to respond to the natural terrain effectively, thereby avoiding injury and performance hindrance. Hence, the purpose of this experiment is to determine whether it is possible to train the human body to be efficient in responses to running on a frontal plane roll. I will analyze modifications in biomechanical and metabolic parameters in response to five different slope conditions (level, 3° up, 3° down, 3° left, and 3° right). I am particularly concerned with changes in response to frontal plane roll (left & right), but I will collect data for level, up, and down as a means of comparison. I recruited 15 healthy college students, all of whom were trained, distance runners, to complete a unique protocol that determined changes in muscular, metabolic, and kinematic parameters with respect to the direction of tilt and roll during treadmill running. The protocol required that each participant run on a treadmill (3m/s), for seven minutes at each slope condition. I measured changes in EMG for 8 separate muscles (TA, LG, SL, BF, RF, VL, ADL, & TFL). I also analyzed temporal-spatial variables and oxygen consumption (ml•kg-1•min-1) for each of the five conditions. Because there is currently no research concerning treadmill running on surfaces sloped in the frontal plane, I based my hypotheses about roll running upon previous literature regarding uphill and downhill running. I hypothesized that there would be significant changes in muscle activity for certain running muscles relative to slope condition and gait phase. More specifically, I expected that most of these changes in EMG activity would occur in the joint stabilizers of the hip, knee, and ankle. Additionally, I hypothesized greater total muscle activity compared to level and downhill, but less activity compared to uphill running. Furthermore, because changes in muscle activity are positively correlated with changes in metabolic demands, I hypothesized an increase in metabolic activity compared to level and downhill, but a decrease compared to the uphill condition. In regards to kinematics, I hypothesized significant changes in gait patterns, particularly temporal-spatial parameters, in order to adjust to roll running. Specifically, I anticipated increased swing time for the lower leg during left and right roll, as well as a greater step width to enhance the base of support. Trends in EMG, metabolic, and kinematic activity for sagittal plane tilt were consistent with previous literature. Conversely, there is not enough evidence to support my hypotheses about specific biomechanical and metabolic changes relative to frontal plane roll. In short, these results illustrate that running on a frontal plane roll elicits changes in gait patterns; however, these exact changes are not well defined. In order to attain more significant conclusions, it may be beneficial to manipulate grade, speed, and the duration of data collection for future studies.