Essex University Discovers The Secret of Usain Bolt’s Speed

Usain Bolt sprinting
Usain Bolt sprinting
Bolt Is 4 Steps Ahead of the Competition

Sports scientists at Essex University have analysed Usain Bolt’s running style and determined that his incredible speed is largely due to his long legs. Usain Bolt is 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) tall. Other leading sprinters are much shorter – Tyson Gay is 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), Asafa Powell is close at 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), as was Carl Lewis.

Although he is only 2 inches taller than Powell and Lewis, the extra length in his legs means that he can cover 100 m in 41 strides rather than the 45 strides that most of his competitors take.

Usain Bolt is still the World Record Holder over 100 m and 200 m, although his Jamiacan teammate Yohan Blake has beaten him over both distances this year.

Dr. Matthew Taylor from the Human Performance Unit at Essex University explained why Bolt’s longer than average legs give him such a big advantage:

“This allows him to cover a greater distance with each step, which in turn means he spends more time on the ground – only around one-hundredth of a second more with each step.

We think this allows him to generate force over a longer time frame and as he lands his leg is less stiff, which possibly allows him to store and then release some energy as he leaves the ground again.”

The research was published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. 

Bolt Can Be Faster

Although so far this year his performance has not been record breaking, Dr. Matthew Taylor believes that Usain Bolt can go quicker given the right environment and a perfect start. Bolt is sometimes slower out of the starting blocks and so far the wind has not been in his favour.

When Usain Bolt broke the World record in 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin,  he took 0.14 seconds to react to the starting gun.

“If the conditions were optimal – the maximum legal wind behind him, the fastest possible legal reaction time out of the blocks and if he’d been at altitude, he could have run under 9.5, a mid 9.4.” Dr. Walker.

Research Paper:

“Spring Mass Characteristics of the Fastest Men on Earth” by M.J. D. Taylor and R. Beneke. Int J Sports Med. Pub. eFirst 12 July 2012

Photo source: Bolt200 by Jmex

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