Do Taller People Run Faster?

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As written on Livestrong.com, Dare to Change Your Life.

The World’s Faster Man as of 2010, 6-foot-5 Usain Bolt, takes 40 to 41 strides in the 100-meter dash. America’s fastest man, 5-foot-11, takes 46 to 47 strides at the same distance. The stride definitely provides the taller sprinter with an edge. Generally, height has been seen as a disadvantage for fast running, but if mastered correctly, it can provide an enormous advantage over shorter sprinters.

Biomechanics

Speed is equal to stride length times stride rate. In other words, if the step length can be increased along with speeding up leg turnover, the runner will go faster. According to Newton’s Second Law, “The acceleration of the body is proportional to the force produced but inversely proportional to the body mass.” This suggests that height and performance have an inverse relationship. In other words, it is tough to produce enough force to overcome the drag of a big body. It is difficult but not impossible.

Advantages

Big guys may have physics working against them, but the formula can be advantageous to taller people. With the ability to create a longer stride length, half of the speed formula is already achieved. Long legs and a stable core, usually an advantage of a shorter runner, add to the capability to run fast.

Disadvantages

Short people are generally more explosive than their lanky friends, which results in a disadvantage in the first half of a race. Tall people have a harder time winning races because it is difficult for them to master the smooth form needed to achieve a speedy leg turnover rate. There needs to be a high skill of coordination so tall runners can use their size as a motor and not as a brake.

Tall Sprinting Form

Taller athletes are generally influenced to pick other sports, like basketball or volleyball. Sprinters are usually compact and muscular, or some changes need to be made. You may have to make some adjustments so your body placement is ideal for sprinting. Sprint to display your height, tall, not as if you are sitting in a chair. Your shoulders need to be in front of your center of gravity and not leaning back. You must also ensure that you are not over-striding and achieve a proper knee lift and heel recovery while running. Your stride length may need to be shortened a step or two, to help quicken your leg speed. Fast running all comes down to the individual with the best top-end speed and speed endurance. That athlete will win the most races. We are unlikely to see taller sprinters in London at the 2012 Olympic Games, but it is a possibility.

(original post written for Livestrong.com)
(original image by Meiguoxing)

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About Justyn Warner

Justyn is a 26 year old, professional sprinter out of Toronto. Justyn is the co-owner of Cover Ground, a blog that discusses all aspects to be a better athlete and the line that clothes them. Justyn is also very active on twitter @justynwarner.
  • Think about this

    They use to say tall people aren’t for short sprints. Only a few exceptions of tall people are successful in short prints over the history of the 100m. Why? Well, to begin… To be a short sprinter you have to born a short sprinter. lol. This seems stupid, but if you really think about it and follow-ups on what I’m about to say you will believe me. Sprinters are actually bread from birth. From a sprinter’s (child) birth to the age of about 9 the child activities involved lots and lots of play activities that have to do with running, jumping and quick reflection activities. This has to be even more frequent for kids who will grow to aspiring heights (like Usain Bolt). His childhood was way more activity intense than the average height child. Mainly, because a child height growth/activity matrix differential has to equal to 1. Meaning, the amount of activity he did as a child has to matchup to his growth percentile. So, if Usain Bold wasn’t that active as a child he wouldn’t have been so fast, as you see him today. Also, a contributing factor is where he was born and grew. Jamaican kids tend to be more outgoing and activity motivated that any other place in the world. As a Jamaican, I can attest to that. In these American countries, if a child is too active that child will be taken to the doctor and prescribe some activity reducing drugs (you know what I mean). In Jamaican, most of a child’s youth years are spent outdoors. Very little time is spent indoors. Those times spent outdoors are filled with games and fun.

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