When you’re running, do you use the muscle groups that you should be using?

I’ve analyzed the running form of a lot of people, both on the treadmill and running outdoors, and it’s clear that a lot of people only use their anterior (front) kinetic chain in order to power their forward running motion, i.e. they rely on their quads and hip flexors to do most of the work - and they often run with their pelvis tilted forwards. This is particularly true of people who spend large amounts of time sitting at a desk and is also true of cyclists...the key being the position that you spend most of your time adopting.

To ensure efficient running technique and reduce the risk of injury, you really want to be powering your running using your hamstrings and glutes, i.e. the posterior part of your lower kinetic chain. This leads to more efficiency and usually means that you can run for longer before fatiguing.

So how do you achieve this?….

Move around during the day. Try to spend less time sitting and more time gently stretching out the muscles that you’ll be using for running. If you have a desk job, take regular breaks - get up and move around.

Use correct running technique and posture. This is easier said than done, particularly if you’ve been running in a particular way for a number of years. The following tips may help:

  • Run with the pelvis well-aligned, i.e. not titled forwards, and use the lower abdominals to keep the pelvis in position rather than the glutes. If you do a lot of cycling in particular, this may be hard to correct.
  • Practice running technqiue drills to get your body used to running the correct way. Check out Eric’s drills as an excellent starting point. Your body needs time to form the new neurological pathways, so be patient and practice the drills regularly.
  • Perform specific exercises for activating the posterior kinetic chain just before you run. Some good ones that should form part of your warm-up are:
    • Backwards walking. Using a walking motion, take long backwards strides. Repeat for 20 metres, jog forwards. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
    • Donkey kicks. Start in a standing position and tilt forward at the pelvis so your back is flat and parallel to the ground. Support your weight on a chair using your hands. Slightly bend one leg and push the other leg out backwards trying to keep it at 90 degrees to the ground. Push with the heel, rather than with the ball of the foot. Repeat 20 to 30 times and then switch legs.
    • Side Donkey Kicks. The same as Donkey Kicks, but instead of pushing the leg out straight, push it out to the side (at an angle of about 30 degrees).
    • Heel taps. Walking forwards, flick one foot up in front of you as if you’re trying to get the heel of your foot into your belly button. Tap the heel with your opposite hand. On the next step forwards, flick your other heel. The motion should be a definite flick with the heel rather than a leg raise. Repeat 25 times each side.
    • Eric Orton’s slant board exercises. The knee drive is particularly good as you should feel the hamstring and glute firing on your supporting leg as you drive the other leg upwards.

Changing the way that you run is not easy. Your body has become accustomed to running in a particular way and those actions are well-ingrained in our brains. But by regularly practicing the drills you can make the changes in as little as 6 weeks - and if it leads to less injury and more efficient running then surely it’s worth it.

I hope you found the above interesting.


Runner’s Paradise

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