An Acceptable Treadmill?

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I was recently sent the video below and asked for my thoughts so I thought I’d share. I actually first saw it about a month ago and posted on the forums but didn’t get any response. I’ve written on the pros and cons of treadmills before so when I first saw this I found it treadmill interesting if for no other reason in that it is very different- it’s the first non-motorized treadmill to permit top-end speed running. Most non-motorized treadmills are unbelievably loud, take forever to get up to speed, and require an extra horizontal force component to keep the belt rolling. This one seems different by the looks of things. It’s obviously taking advantage of gravity and some precision engineering to get the belt moving so smoothly. One of the really big benefits of it would be that belt speed is almost instantly variable. This alone would make it much more similar to the minor fluctuations in velocity observed in overground sprinting. In my opinion this is one of the biggest limitations of sprinting on a motorized treadmill because even if the treadmill itself didn’t directly change your mechanics (which it does slightly), the fact that there’s no instantaneous variations in speed as there are in overground running means you’re constantly (mostly at the subconscious level) putting on the speed governor or trying to accelerate based on your position on the belt. With this treadmill that wouldn’t be a problem. As for it’s effect on sprint mechanics, that’s another question altogether. It’s tough to say for sure without high speed footage but it looks like if you’re running with good mechanics that you wouldn’t be making touchdown very high on the front slope or toeing off too far on the rear slope. I think there’s no doubt though that you wouldn’t really be running on a flat surface. Touch down would probably be an inch or two higher than with overground running and toe-off would probably be fractionally higher. Both touchdown and toe-off would obviously not be occurring on a completely flat surface either. A detailed motion analysis would be needed to really examine just how much kinematics change between running on this treadmill and overground sprinting. A colleague of mine who works at Athlete’s Performance told me they’ve used these in their combine preparation as a means of firing up the nervous system and he seemed to think the treadmills were effective. He admitted this was strictly with a football population though so I’d be curious to see what a track coach thought of the thing. You can read about it here. Would you use it? What are your concerns?


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