United Kingdom

Big bums: A large behind can boost sprinting performance by up to 44 per cent, study shows 

Unsure who to place a bet on in the men's 100 meters at next year's Olympics? Well, scientists may have a useful mantra for you: 'I like big butts and I can not lie.'

Experts from Loughborough University found that sprinters with a large gluteus maximus — the muscle that forms the bottom — can run up to 44 per cent faster.

The team discovered this 'booty boost' factor after comparing the lower body muscles of of men who were either elite sprinters, sub-elite athletes or untrained.

Elite sprinters — those with a personal best of under 9.99 seconds in the 100 metres — were found to be not only more muscular generally, but also in a very specific way.

While their calf muscles were similar in size to those of their sub-elite counterparts, others — including the gluteus maximus and hip extensors — were far bigger.

The findings have the potential to revolutionise the physical training and performance of many athletes, the researchers claimed.

Experts from Loughborough University found that sprinters (pictured) with a large gluteus maximus — the muscle that forms the bottom — can run up to 44 per cent faster

In their study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging — commonly known as MRI — to measure the size of 23 lower body muscles in 42 different men.

Of these participants, five were elite sprinters, 26 were sub-elite athletes and 11 were untrained men.

The team found variability in performance among the elite and sub-elite sprinters, with personal bests for the 100 metres event that ranged from 9.91–11.25 seconds.

The researchers' analysis revealed that 44 per cent of this variability in performance was explained by the size of the gluteus maximus — with this muscle being around 45 per cent bigger in elite sprinters than their sub-elite counterparts.

'Sprinting is thought to be influenced by many factors — technique, psychology, nutrition, anatomy of other structures,' explained paper author and neuromuscular performance expert Jonathan Folland, of Loughborough University.

'To find a single muscle that alone seems so important, explaining nearly half the variability, is remarkable,' he added.

'It appears that muscle size is more important for fast running than we thought and especially the size of the hip extensors and gluteus maximus.'

'The logical implication is that with a larger gluteus maximus the runner will be able to generate more power and therefore greater sprint speed.'

'Thus, increasing the size of the gluteus maximus in particular — as well as the other hip extensor muscles — would be expected to improve sprint performance.'

The team discovered this 'booty boost' factor after comparing the lower body muscles of of men who were either elite sprinters, sub-elite athletes or untrained

Elite sprinters — those with a personal best of under 9.99 seconds in the 100 metres — were found to be not only more muscular generally, but also in a very specific way. While their calf muscles were similar in size to those of their sub-elite counterparts, others — including the gluteus maximus and hip extensors — were far bigger

'I believe this line of research has the potential to have a significant impact on coaches and practitioners working with elite level sprinters,' said paper author and Loughborough University doctoral student Rob Miller.

Mr Miller, who is a strength and conditioning coach with British Athletics, added: 'it is unusual to find research on truly elite athletes and it's exciting to have found specific characteristics that seem to differentiate between the good and very-good.'

The team is now building on the research with a study focused on women instead.

They are also collecting data for a comparison of the muscle anatomy of runners that compete over different distances.

The findings have the potential to revolutionise the physical training and performance of many athletes, the researchers claimed

HOW MUSCLES WORK

Muscles form an intricate network of sinews throughout the body of animals.  

They respond to electrical stimulation which is carried from the brain to the muscle via nerves. 

There are different types of muscle, which are often made of different types of tissue. 

For example, the heart, which never stops beating, is made of a different material to skeletal muscle.

Skeletal muscle is attached to one end of a bone. It stretches all the way across a joint (the place where two bones meet) and then attaches again to another bone. 

Skeletal muscles are held to the bones with tendons.

Once the electrical signal reaches the muscle it triggers a contraction.  

This is done by two types of protein overlapping and working against each other. 

A thick filament composed of the protein myosin and a thin filament composed of the protein actin. 

Muscle contraction occurs when these filaments slide over one another in a series of repetitive events.

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