February 2021

Muscle Tone and Body Weight Predict Uphill Race Time in Amateur Trail Runners

Authors: César Berzosa, Héctor Gutierrez, Pablo Jesús Bascuas, Irela Arbones, Ana Vanessa Bataller-Cervero

Author information:

Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad San Jorge, Autov. A-23 Zaragoza-Huesca, 50830 Villanueva de Gállego, Zaragoza, Spain

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Sport and Exercise for Health and Performance - February 2021, Volume 18, Issue 4, Article no.2040 (DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18042040)

Background: Vertical kilometer is an emerging sport where athletes continuously run uphill. The aims of this study were to assess changes in vertical impacts caused by uphill running (UR) and the relation between the anthropometric and lower limb muscular characteristics with speed.

Methods: Ten male experienced runners (35 ± 7 years old) participated in this study. In the racetrack (4.2 km long, 565 m high), seven sections were stablished. Mean speed and impact value of sections with similar slope (≈21%) were calculated. The gastrocnemius stiffness (GS) and tone (GT) and the vastus lateralis stiffness (VS) and tone (VT) were assessed before the race.

Results: Pearson’s correlation showed a linear relationship between vs. and VT (r = 0.829; p = 0.000), GT and GS (r = 0.792; p = 0.001). Mean speed is correlated with weight (r = −0.619; p = 0.024) and GT (r = 0.739; p = 0.004). Multiple linear regressions showed a model with weight and GT as dependent variables of mean speed. Mean impacts decreased significantly between sections along the race.

Conclusions: The vertical impacts during UR were attenuated during the race. Moreover, body weight and GT were associated with the time-to-finish, which supports that low weight alone could not be enough to be faster, and strength training of plantar flexors may be a determinant in UR.


Keywords: Fatigue, Vertical impacts, Stiffness, GPS


In conclusion, the vertical impacts generated during uphill running are attenuated during the race, maybe because of the fatigue accumulated and the running technique changes linked to it. Even more, body weight and gastrocnemius tone were associated with the time-to-finish during an uphill running race in amateur athletes. It supports the idea that a greater muscle tone in ankle plantar flexors and a low body weight are determinant to achieve performance in these kinds of trail running races. Low body weight alone could not be enough to reach a faster race time, maybe accompanying body weight control with a strength training program focused on plantar flexors, emphasizing the eccentric and plyometric work to increase muscle stiffness may be determinant in uphill running.