Deakin University

File(s) under permanent embargo

Neuromuscular adaptations to training, injury and passive interventions: implications for running economy

journal contribution
posted on 2010-11-01, 00:00 authored by Jason BonacciJason Bonacci, A Chapman, P Blanch, B Vicenzino
Performance in endurance sports such as running, cycling and triathlon has long been investigated from a physiological perspective. A strong relationship between running economy and distance running performance is well established in the literature. From this established base, improvements in running economy have traditionally been achieved through endurance training. More recently, research has demonstrated short-term resistance and plyometric training has resulted in enhanced running economy. This improvement in running economy has been hypothesized to be a result of enhanced neuromuscular characteristics such as improved muscle power development and more efficient use of stored elastic energy during running. Changes in indirect measures of neuromuscular control (i.e. stance phase contact times, maximal forward jumps) have been used to support this hypothesis. These results suggest that neuromuscular adaptations in response to training (i.e. neuromuscular learning effects) are an important contributor to enhancements in running economy. However, there is no direct evidence to suggest that these adaptations translate into more efficient muscle recruitment patterns during running. Optimization of training and run performance may be facilitated through direct investigation of muscle recruitment patterns before and after training interventions.

There is emerging evidence that demonstrates neuromuscular adaptations during running and cycling vary with training status. Highly trained runners and cyclists display more refined patterns of muscle recruitment than their novice counterparts. In contrast, interference with motor learning and neuromuscular adaptation may occur as a result of ongoing multidiscipline training (e.g. triathlon). In the sport of triathlon, impairments in running economy are frequently observed after cycling. This impairment is related mainly to physiological stress, but an alteration in lower limb muscle coordination during running after cycling has also been observed. Muscle activity during running after cycling has yet to be fully investigated, and to date, the effect of alterations in muscle coordination on running economy is largely unknown. Stretching, which is another mode of training, may induce acute neuromuscular effects but does not appear to alter running economy.

There are also factors other than training structure that may influence running economy and neuromuscular adaptations. For example, passive interventions such as shoes and in-shoe orthoses, as well as the presence of musculoskeletal injury, may be considered important modulators of neuromuscular control and run performance. Alterations in muscle activity and running economy have been reported with different shoes and in-shoe orthoses; however, these changes appear to be subject-specific and nonsystematic. Musculoskeletal injury has been associated with modifications in lower limb neuromuscular control, which may persist well after an athlete has returned to activity. The influence of changes in neuromuscular control as a result of injury on running economy has yet to be examined thoroughly, and should be considered in future experimental design and training analysis.



Sports medicine






903 - 921


ADIS Press Ltd.


Auckland, N.Z.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2009, Adis Data Information BV.