“Weyand has conducted what many researchers consider to be some of the best science to date on the biomechanics of sprinting and how these elite athletes achieve their record-breaking speeds.” — Scientific American
The work of SMU biomechanics researcher Peter G. Weyand is featured in the August 2016 issue of the science news magazine Scientific American.
Science writer and associate editor Dina Fine Maron reports on Weyand’s leading-edge research about the key to human speed for sprinters in the article “The Secret to Human Speed” and the video report “How Elite Sprinters Run So Fast.” Hint: “Think like a piston,” says Maron.
Weyand, director of the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory, is one of the world’s leading scholars on the scientific basis of human performance. His research on runners, specifically world-class sprinters, looks at the importance of ground forces for running speed, and has established a contemporary understanding that spans the scientific and athletic communities.
In particular, Weyand’s finding that speed athletes are not able to reposition their legs more rapidly than non-athletes debunked a widespread belief. Rather, Weyand and his colleagues have demonstrated sprinting performance is largely set by the force with which one presses against the ground and how long one applies that force.
Weyand is Glenn Simmons Centennial Chair in Applied Physiology and professor of biomechanics in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
By Dina Fine Marone
… Before (Weyand’s) investigations, the prevailing wisdom about great sprinters was that they are particularly adept at quickly repositioning their limbs for their next step while their feet are in the air … Weyand was the first to test this idea scientifically — and his findings indicate that it is wrong …
… In subsequent work, Weyand further determined that at top speeds the best runners landed with a peak force up to five times their body weight, compared with 3.5 times among the average runner … Recently Weyand’s team additionally figured out how the best sprinters are able to generate those higher forces — and in so doing forced a revision of another central tenet of the running world.
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