LOWER EXTREMITY BIOMECHANICS DURING WEIGHTLIFTING EXERCISE VARY ACROSS JOINT AND LOAD

KRISTOF KIPP,1 CHAD HARRIS,2
1

AND

MICHELLE B. SABICK3

Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; 2Department of Allied Health, Western New Mexico University, Silver City, New Mexico; and 3Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho

ABSTRACT
Kipp, K, Harris, C, and Sabick, MB. Lower extremity biomechanics during weightlifting exercise vary across joint and load. J Strength Cond Res 25(5): 1229–1234, 2011—The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of load on lower extremity biomechanics during the pull phase of the clean. Kinematic and kinetic data of the 3 joints of the lower extremity were collected while participants performed multiple sets of cleans at 3 percentages: 65, 75, and 85% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM). General linear models with repeated measures were used to assess the influence of load on angular velocities, net torques, powers, and rates of torque development at the ankle, knee, and hip joint. The results suggest that the biomechanical demands required from the lower extremities change with the lifted load and to an extent depend on the respective joint. Most notably, the hip and knee extended significantly faster than the ankle independent of load, whereas the hip and ankle generally produced significantly higher torques than the knee did. Torque, rate of torque development (RTD), and power were maximimal at 85% of 1RM for the ankle joint and at 75% of 1RM for the knee joint. Torque and RTD at the hip were maximal at loads .75% of 1RM. This study provides important novel information about the mechanical demands of a weightlifting exercise and should be heeded in the design of resistance training programs.

KEY WORDS clean, power, rate of torque development INTRODUCTION

A

daptations to resistance training programs are stimulus specific (10,15). Out of the number of program design variables that determine the extent of these adaptations (e.g., sets and

Address correspondence to Dr. Kristof Kipp, kristof@med.umich.edu. 25(5)/1229–1234 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Ó 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association

repetitions), the most salient factor is the magnitude of the external load (10). Variations in the magnitude of training loads elicit force- and velocity-specific adaptations (16,19). Load-specific adaptations are perhaps best illustrated in training for maximal muscle power output (16). It is well documented that training at optimal loads—those that maximize power—are most effective in improving maximal muscle power (16,23). The use of optimal loads during a training session is therefore highly important when specific adaptations, such as increased muscular power or strength, are a primary goal. Although numerous training modalities are currently used to improve dynamic power or strength performance, resistance training programs that incorporate weightlifting exercises, or derivatives of these exercises, are known to elicit superior adaptations (4,15,22). Incorporating weightlifting methods produces greater and broader improvements in jumping and sprinting performance than traditional heavy resistance training exercise (22). Experienced weightlifters also exhibit greater fast-twitch fiber activation and more optimal timing when producing peak force and rate of force development (9). The efficacy of weightlifting exercises are thought to arise from a high degree of specicifity in that they are biomechanically similar to many explosive sports movements (4). Previous research indicates that changes in the external load used with weightlifting exercises directly affect the biomechanical characteristics of these exercises (5,17). In general, it appears that performance-associated biomechanical characteristics are maximized at submaximal loads (5,16). Commonly analyzed variables are related to the trajectories or external kinetics associated with the barbell itself or the lifter–barbell system (5,11–13,17,18,24,25). For example, the magnitudes of ground reaction forces and power associated with the movement of the barbell–lifter system differ significantly between low and high loads (17). Further, the velocity of the barbell and its trajectories are also affected by changes in the external load (24). Although these variables provide important global information about the mechanics at the location of external constraints (i.e., the bar and ground),
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Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Before commencement of data collection. Procedures Data Collection Procedures.09 97. surprisingly little is known about the load-dependent biomechanics of the lower extremity during weightlifting exercise. Although this study also examined lower extremity joint angular velocities and net joint torques. these variables were not included in the analysis and not reported. 75. the positions of reflective markers attached to bony landmarks of the subjects’ body were recorded with a 6-camera motion capture system (Vicon 612. and internal rotation of the distal segment were used to calculate ankle. Subject characteristics are presented in Table 1.05. Angles were numerically differentiated with a central difference technique METHODS Experimental Approach to the Problem We hypothesized that the external load lifted during the pull portion of the clean exercise significantly influences the biomechanical demands of the lower extremity.80 at a . knee. The percentages were chosen because they span a percentage range that has previously been shown to maximize the external kinematics and kinetics of the barbell or barbell–lifter system (5. (9 men and 1 woman) to participate in this study. Subject characteristics. 0. Because specificity of training is a function of the task-inherent biomechanics. The dependent biomechanical variables were joint angular velocities. subjects performed the clean exercise while standing on 2 force platforms that were built into an 8 3 8-ft weightlifting platform. All subjects indicated that they had participated in a training program that involved weightlifting exercises for at least the previous 6 months. Mean 6 SD 1. net torques. the purpose of this study was to determine the effect of changing external loads on hip. Lower extremity joint kinetics vary based on the external load (3. and 3 were collegiate throwers. Kinematic data were collected at 250 Hz and filtered at 6 Hz. The rationale for this investigation was that a more precise understanding of these biomechanical demands at each lower extremity joint will facilitate proper design of resistance programs that incorporate weightlifting exercises. a minimum of 10 subjects per group would be required. an understanding of how these variables change across loads at each of the lower extremity joints would facilitate the design of specific resistance programs that incorporate weightlifting exercises.e. However. Vicon Peak. In addition to joint velocities.0 120. To establish a neutral anatomical position. Enoka (8) showed that absolute magnitudes of joint power production differ to accommodate changes in external loads. During the execution of each set of lifts. All subjects participated in this study during an ‘‘off’’-week in their preseason. We thus recruited 10 subjects 1230 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research the TM Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.* Variable Height (m) Weight (kg) 1RM (kg) *1RM = 1 repetition maximum. and RTD and were chosen based on their mechanical relationship to lower extremity performance. Collectively. a single static calibration trial was performed.Lower Extremity Weightlifting Mechanics they do not provide information about the internal joint kinetics. research also suggests that the ability to rapidly generate torques (i. Subjects TABLE 1. All subjects provided written informed consent after reading an informed consent document approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board. Lake Forest. USA). and ankle joints while subjects performed sets of cleans at 65. knee. The lower extremity was modeled as a 3-dimensional system of rigid links. One-repetition maximums were self-reported and current within 2 weeks of testing (Table 1). The force plates were mounted flush with the top of the platform. . Kinematic and kinetic data were collected during each of the 3 sets. All subjects were deemed technically competent and representative of collegiate-level weightlifters by a national USA Weightlifting coach. Euler angle rotation sequences of flexion. and hip joint angles. 75. Kinetic data were collected at 1. Therefore. not simply the external movement characteristics (20). abduction. net torques.17). knowledge of internal joint kinetics would provide important descriptive information to be used in the program design process. CA. After the warm-up.. power. During the data collection session. To determine the effect of load on lower extremity biomechanics during the pull phase of the clean. we measured kinematic and kinetic data of the hip. knee.3 6 18. rate of torque development [RTD]) may be a particularly important variable related to functional performance (1). It thus remains to be seen how changes in the external load may affect lower extremity kinematics and kinetics. all subjects completed a warm-up that included lifting light loads between 35 and 50% of their estimated 1RM for the clean exercise. and 85% of their respective 1 repetition maximum (RM). and power. Six subjects were Olympic weightlifters. Kinematic and kinetic data were exported and processed with custom software in MATLAB. and ankle joint biomechanics during the pull phase of the clean. and 85% of 1RM.250 Hz from the 2 force plates (Kistler) and filtered at 25 Hz. Kinematic and Kinetic Data Analysis.8). subjects performed 2–3 repetitions each at 65. All subjects were given 2–3 minutes of rest between each set.5 6 24.84 6 0.3 A basic power calculation indicated that to detect moderate within-group and between-group differences with statistical power of at least 0.

Assumptions of the test statistic were verified with Mauchly’s test of Sphericity.549.9 765.05 vs.4‡k§ Power 846.0 6 28. Calculated joint torques represent net internal torques and thus reflect the net influence of all anatomical structures crossing a joint. and 85% of 1RM.0‡§ 266..8 165. 0.521. respectively.2‡ 196. extensor RTD.5 175.05 vs.1 6 349. Specifically.050. The standard of proof to show statistical significance for all analyses was set at a level of a # 0.0 (SPSS. 75. center of mass locations. Chicago.8 6 62. . §Load effects: p . Separate general linear analysis of variance models were used to test for differences in dependent variables.2 148. power.3 6 421.2 241. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 17.4 6 1. and mass moments of inertia were calculated from measured anthropometrics and published sex-dependent relationships (7).7 6 80.90).0.2k 197. and hip joint torques with a conventional inverse dynamics approach in 3 planes of motion.4§ 3. In the absence of a significant interaction effect.9† 347.0 6 63. and extensor power generation.1 6 337.123.8 6 980.576. Mean 6 SD lower extremity joint angular velocities (°Ás21).6 6 1.26 6 70. across load) were treated as repeated measures.0 854.1 6 411.316. Kinematic and kinetic data then were combined and used to solve for ankle.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research to obtain joint angular velocities. net torques (NÁm). IL.05 vs. Net joint torques were numerically differentiated to calculate rates of torque development.0 6 54.788.3† 153. Body segment masses.1§ 700. hip joint torque at 65% of 1RM was significantly smaller than at 75 and 85% of 1RM.3 6 66.8k 2.1 6 31.3 6 246.7 843.050.* Variables Joint Hip Load 65 75 85 65 75 85 65 75 85 Angular velocity 302.2 6 337.001.5k 648.5‡ 272.7 2. data were pooled across load to compare differences between joints.714.4 896. knee. Within-subject differences (i.1† 268.05).5 6 1.5 6 339. ‡Joint effects: p . Although the analysis used 3-D joint segment models and yielded variables in all 3 planes of motion. Table 2).7 6 42.0§ 3.384.0 6 70. Pilot testing indicated that kinematic and kinetic variables exhibit acceptable reliability (intracorrelation coefficient .05.4 6 1.1 6 67.7 876.0 6 67. power = 0. power = 0. Partial eta-squared (h2) and power values were used to help interpret the magnitude of main and interaction effects. Joint velocities were significantly larger for the knee and hip than for the ankle. Post hoc analysis consisted of paired and independent t-tests for comparisons among between and within-subject differences.7 6 2. powers (W).196. Joint powers were calculated as the products of velocity and torque. 0. Greenhouse–Geisser (GG) corrections were made when assumptions of sphericity were violated.8 696. h2 = 0. ankle.2 6 82. Ankle joint torque at 85% of 1RM was Peak positive kinematic and kinetic variables from 3 sets of cleans were analyzed: 65.184. RTD (NÁmÁs21) for the hip. 0.0 Torque 248. k Load effects: p .961. Dependent kinematic and kinetic variables chosen for analysis were peak angular velocities. 0.247.697.0 6 65. joint velocities were significantly influenced by joint independently (main effect p .8‡§ 154.1† 286. Each model consisted of a 3 3 3 (load 3 joint) TABLE 2. RESULTS The effects of load on lower extremity joint velocities did not depend on the respective load (interaction p = 0.4 6 327.4 6 73.8 6 980.5k Knee Ankle *RTD = rate of torque development. net torques.8§ RTD 2. VOLUME 25 | NUMBER 5 | MAY 2011 | 1231 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.11. h2 = 0.687. 75.9† 339.2 6 59. 0. and 85% of 1RM.org analysis to test for within-subject differences (load) and for between-subject (joint) differences.3 6 1. All peak variables were averaged between the right and left legs and submitted to statistical analysis. Only positive peak joint kinematic and kinetic variables were extracted for analysis and represent peak angular extension velocity. and hip joint. 1RM = 1 repetition maximum.0 2. However.5 155. USA). knee. Statistical Analyses the TM | www. extensor torque.085.248.263.175. 75. Lower extremity net joint torques depended on combined effects of load and joint (interaction p = 0. Table 2). and RTD for the ankle.7† 334. †Joint effects: p . knee.8 2. and ankle joint at loads of 65.e.5 6 47.1 6 306. knee.0 6 1.4 2.nsca-jscr.2 3. 65.05 vs. only sagittal-plane variables were analyzed because the pull phase of the clean primarily involves muscles in the said plane. Knee joint torque at 85% of 1RM was significantly smaller than at 75% of 1RM.4 6 27.

whereas hip joint torque and RTD were greater at 75% of 1RM than at 65%. It thus appears that to achieve higher net torques during a movement of a constant time interval. an increase in external load may thus not always increase the functional torque or strength demands imposed on a joint. (3) observed that hip joint torque during competitive weightlifting attempts increased as barbell load increased. in much the same way that joint torques were maximized at specified loads. Lower extremity joint powers depended on combined effects of load and joint (interaction p = 0. the power generated at the ankle and knee joint was also significantly influenced by load.848. however. it becomes necessary to increase the rate at which the torque is developed. h2 = 0. as measured in this study. Ankle joint torque was significantly greater at 85% of 1RM than at 65 and 75%. qualitative analyses of the time histories indicated that maxima for knee and ankle torques. knee joint power was significantly higher at 75% of 1RM than at 65 and 85% of 1RM. respect to the knee joint center (3). however. Table 2). Although we did not measure movement time. However. whereas power at the knee joint was maximal at 75%. which may underscore the importance of forceful plantar flexion during the final pull phase of the clean as the external load increases. Hip joint RTD was significantly smaller at 65% of 1RM than at 75 and 85% of 1RM. and RTD did vary with the load lifted but in part depended on the respective joint in question. respectively. the total time of the pull phases of weightlifting movements does not change significantly as load increases (14). power = 0. Because joint velocities remained constant. is calculated as the product of joint torque and joint angular velocity. Increases in external loads generally resulted in greater task demands imposed on the lower extremity. It is important to note that these results generally match those for the above-reported joint torques. Joint velocities did. Further. joint angular velocities did not vary across the load ranges used in this study. Table 2). the results showed that ankle joint RTD was significantly greater at 85% of 1RM than at 75%.85% of 1RM but may also involve more complex control. Lower extremity joint power. Lower extremity power did not vary across joints. Baumann et al. whereas knee joint RTD was greater at 75% of 1RM than at 85%.311. For example. This discrepancy illustrates the importance to consider internal kinetics when evaluating task-inherent biomechanics of weightlifting exercises. Although joint angular velocities did not change across the load spectrum.254. it appears that joint velocities are less subject to change as resistance is increased (14).17). Although. knee joint torque and RTD were both greater at 75% of 1RM than at 85%. Lower extremity joint torque–time curve characteristics. Ankle joint power was higher at 85% of 1RM than at 65% of 1RM. loads should generally exceed 75 and 85% for the hip and ankle joint. were also influenced by changes in external loads. Further. the rate at which at these torques were developed followed a similar loaddependent pattern. Knee joint RTD was significantly larger at 75% of 1RM than at 85% of 1RM. the observed differences in power at the ankle and knee joint may consequently be the result of higher joint torques. vary across joints in that angular velocities were higher at the hip and knee than at the ankle.024 2 GG correction. RTD and power all occurred toward the end of the DISCUSSION The external load lifted during the pull phase of the clean has a direct influence on biomechanics of the lower extremity. The effects of load on lower extremity joint RTD depended on the respective joint (interaction p = 0. hip joint RTD increased linearly and reached a maximal point at 85% of 1RM. Accordingly. it has been suggested that it is not necessarily the magnitude of joint torque produced by the knee extensors during weightlifting movements that is important. However. Hip joint torque increased from 65 to 75% of 1RM but appeared to plateau thereafter. . Ankle joint RTD was significantly smaller at 85% of 1RM than at 75% of 1RM.829. collectively these results indicate that to maximize net joint torques of the lower extremities and increase the demand imposed on the involved musculature. Contrary to our observation that hip joint torque stabilizes once the load exceeds 75% of 1RM. power. Although we did not extract the joint angular velocity and joint torque at the instant of maximal power. Specifically. power = 0.Lower Extremity Weightlifting Mechanics significantly larger than at 65 and 75% of 1RM. net joint torque. the load-associated increase in hip and ankle torque from 65 to 75 and 85% of 1RM compare well with studies that demonstrate higher ground reaction forces in response to elevated loads (17).014. Further. Generally. Hip joint power did not vary with load. More specifically. but rather the control of the moment arm of the ground reaction force with 1232 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research the TM Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. These results compare well to previous findings that show power output associated with either the barbell or barbell–lifter system is maximized between 70 and 80% (5. This finding is contrary to previous research where load had little influence on the rates of ground reaction force development (17). Maximizing knee joint torque on the other hand may be achieved with loads . Ankle joint power at 85% of 1RM was significantly higher than at 65% of 1RM. Similarly. In addition to observing load-dependent behavior for joint torque and RTD. both ankle joint torque and RTD were greater at 85% of 1RM than at 75%. In combination. Indeed. knee joint torque was significantly lower than hip torque at all loads but differed from ankle joint torque only at 65 and 85% of 1RM. Knee joint torque. Consequently. mechanically the magnitudes of the ground reaction forces are a direct reflection of the summed total of the body’s net joint torques. as assessed through rate of joint torque development. h2 = 0. joint RTD did not vary across joints. decreased when the load was increased from 75 to 85% of 1RM. load effects appeared more evident in lower extremity kinetics than kinematics.

derived from barbell kinematics. Triplett. Optimal loading for maximal power output during lower-body resistance exercises. 2007. LZ and Schilling. In general. The hip and knee joint undergo greater angular excursions than the ankle during the pull phase of the clean. Adjustments to zatsiorsky-seluyanov’s segment interia parameters. 3.nsca-jscr. EB. respectively. respectively. Together. respectively. Sports Med 35: 213–234. J Appl Physiol 93: 1318–1326. Simonsen. A primer on weightlifting: From sport to sports training. Selecting and training at external loads that maximize either joint torque and power would be expected to result in superior strength and power performance. the results provide an important first step to a better understanding of the biomechanical demands of weightlifting exercise and should prove useful in the program design process. P. Nonetheless. RM.6. Cormie. The results of this investigation suggest that the external load significantly affects lower extremity kinetics.25). it may be prudent for future weightlifting research to investigate moment arm control and antagonistic coactivation with respect to lower extremity joint function during weightlifting exercises. An individual’s training status can significantly influence loaddependent expression of muscular performance (2.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research pull-movement (i. Gross. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS The rationale for this study was that facilitating a better understanding of the biomechanical demands at each lower extremity joints would assist proper design of resistance programs that incorporate weightlifting exercises. 8. In light of the important technical implications associated with the control of joint torques during movement. P. J Biomech 29: 1223–1330. 1988. 7. K. the increased joint torques served to maximize joint power. A greater range of motion may necessitate greater velocities. the second pull). In the absence of load-associated changes in joint velocities. McCaulley. Quade. D. Galbierz. Enoka. The difference between knee joint torques compared to those of the other joints can be interpreted similarly to the earlier described mechanism that accounts for the load-dependent change in knee joint torque in that the control of the moment arm of the ground reaction force about the knee joint is a greater determinant of joint torque than the external load. B. If the goal of a weightlifting-based resistance training program is to maximize joint torque. Challenges in understanding the influence of maximal power training on improving athletic performance. 1988. The snatch technique of world class weightlifters at the 1985 world championships. JL. Joint torques. First. JM. the subjects in this study were all of a similar experience level. some differences were joint dependent. especially if the time of the movement remains constant. Magnusson. A series of studies on the training of high-intensity muscle power in rugby league football players. P. W. Strength Cond J 27: 42–48. respectively. the mechanical behavior at a joint was maximized through high rates of torque development that allowed for the generation of high joint torques. Load. If hip extensor torque and RTD are program goals. Int J Sport Biomech 4: 68–89. Alternatively. where joint kinetics were maximized at 75 and 85% of 1RM. the torques reported in the represent study represent only the net internal torques and do not account for the possibility of antagonistic coactivation. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We would like to thank Josh Redden and Seth Kuhlman for assisting with data collection and processing.org differences in lower extremity kinematics appear to be more joint dependent. 5. 2001. the need for continuous assessment of lower extremity biomechanics during weightlifting exercise is warranted. joint angular velocity was smaller at the ankle than at the knee and hip. 2005. de Leva. 2002. and McBride.. Extrapolating and applying these results to either more or less trained individuals may result in erroneous exercise prescription and should thus be done with caution. An increase in hamstring coactivation with an increase in external load may effectively balance an increase in knee extensor torque. P. loads of 75 and 85% of 1RM should be chosen to target the knee extensors and ankle plantar flexors. were generally larger at the hip and ankle than at the knee. are also highest during this phase (11. . Second.21). J Strength Cond Res 15: 198–209.12). the results from this study provide only a cross-sectional perspective of load-associated changes in lower extremity mechanics. and DyhrePoulsen. or power of the knee extensors and the ankle plantar flexors in relatively well-trained individuals. Increased rate of force development and neural drive of human skeletal muscle following resistance training. NT. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39: 340–349. G. Cronin.and skill-related changes in segmental contributions to a weightlifting movement. Apart from the load-dependent changes in lower extremity biomechanics during the pull phase. the examination of joint torque. J and Sleivert.75% of 1RM should be targeted. GO. whereas the TM | www. 2005. Med Sci Sports Exerc 20: 178–187. 6. V. REFERENCES 1. the results should be interpreted with caution. 1996. RTD. 4. A. P. RTD. Most notably. These limitations indicate that lower extremity kinetics should be constantly monitored and suggest a need for longitudinal studies. and Shwirtz. and power indicated that lower extremity kinetics follow a load-dependent pattern. Although this study provides novel biomechanical insights. VOLUME 25 | NUMBER 5 | MAY 2011 | 1233 Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited. Andersen. External power outputs. on the other hand. 2. Baker. Baumann. Aagaard. loads . Chiu.e. It appears that the load-dependent changes in maximal lower extremity biomechanics result from an interplay between the kinetic variables and display temporal patterns similar to those observed externally from barbell mechanics. Because resistance training or feedback-based programs may influence load-dependent biomechanical characteristics across the loading spectrum (24. Training status and adaptations should also be considered and closely monitored when applying the findings of this study. P. This pattern was most apparent at the knee and ankle joint.

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