Have the limits of human performance in the 100 metres been reached?

Usain_Bolt_Olympics_cropped Human upper performance limits in the 100 metre sprint remain the subject of much debate.

The aim of a new commentary, published in the March 2015 issue of the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance (IJSPP), is to highlight the vulnerabilities of prognoses from historical trends by shedding light on the mechanical and physiological limitations associated with human sprint performance.

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Hitting the ground running

New research shows that world-class sprinters attack the ground to maximise impact forces and speed according to two new studies from Southern Methodist University, Dallas

The world’s fastest sprinters have unique gait features that account for their ability to achieve fast speeds and the new findings indicate that the secret to elite sprinting speeds lies in the distinct limb dynamics sprinters use to elevate ground forces upon foot-ground impact.

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Running speeds of up to 40 mph may be biologically possible

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology offers intriguing insights into the biology of human running speed.

It also offers an enticing view of how the biological limits might be pushed back beyond the nearly 28 miles per hour speeds achieved by Usain Bolt to speeds of perhaps 35 or even 40 miles per hour.

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Train less and be better

In a recent scientific study just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that doing 30-second ‘sprints’ of exercise – whether jogging, cycling or swimming – boosted fitness levels quicker than exercising at the same pace continuously.

Lead by Human Kinetics’ author Jens Bangsbo, they demonstrated that reducing the volume of training by 25% and introducing the so-called speed endurance training (6 to 12 thirty second sprint runs 3 or 4 times a week), endurance trained runners can improve not only short-term but also long-term performance.

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100 metre sprint world record could go as low as 9.48 seconds – but probably no lower

Usain Bolt

2008 was a great year for sports fans, with highlights including Usain Bolt shattering both the 100m and 200m world records at the Beijing Olympics and knocking tenths of a second off each in the process. The fact is that athletes have been getting faster and faster since times have been accurately recorded, but is there an upper limit to how fast athletes can run?

American marathon runner Mark Denny, from Stanford University thought that there were and set about trying to predict what those limits were. To do so he scrutinised the running performances of humans and two other famous racing species, greyhounds and thoroughbred horses, to find how close their modern participants are to the peak performances for their species.

He has just published his predictions for their top speeds in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

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