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Drills to improve running form

This is an excerpt from Running Anatomy by Joe Puleo and Dr. Patrick Milroy.

ABC Running Drills

Other than with strength training, how can running form and performance be improved? Because running has a neuromuscular component, running form can be improved through form drills that coordinate the movements of the involved anatomy. The drills, developed by coach Gerard Mach in the 1950s, are simple to perform and cause little impact stress to the body. Essentially, the drills, commonly referred to as the ABCs of running, isolate the phases of the gait cycle: knee lift, upper leg motion, and pushoff. By isolating each phase and slowing the movement, the drills, when properly performed, aid the runner’s kinesthetic sense, promote neuromuscular response, and emphasize strength development. A properly performed drill should lead to proper running form because the former becomes the latter, just at a faster velocity. Originally these drills were designed for sprinters, but they can be used by all runners. Drills should be performed once or twice a week and can be completed in 15 minutes. Focus on proper form.

A Motion

The A motion (figure 3.2; the movement can be performed while walking or more dynamically as the A skip or A run) is propelled by the hip flexors and quadriceps. Knee flexion occurs, and the pelvis is rotated forward. The arm carriage is simple and used to balance the action of the lower body as opposed to propelling it. The arm opposite to the raised leg is bent 90 degrees at the elbow, and it swings forward and back like a pendulum, the shoulder joint acting as a fulcrum. The opposite arm is also moving simultaneously in the opposite direction. Both hands should be held loosely at the wrist joints and should not be raised above shoulder level. The emphasis is on driving down the swing leg, which initiates the knee lift of the other leg.

B Motion

The B motion (figure 3.3) is dependent on the quadriceps to extend the leg and the hamstrings to drive the leg groundward, preparing for the impact phase. In order, the quadriceps extend the leg from the position of the A motion to potential full extension, and then the hamstrings group acts to forcefully drive the lower leg and foot to the ground. During running the tibialis anterior dorsiflexes the ankle, which positions the foot for the appropriate heel landing; however, while performing the B motion, dorsiflexion should be minimized so that the foot lands closer to midstance. This allows for less impact solely on the heel, and because the biomechanics of the foot are not involved as in running, it does not promote any forefoot injuries.


C Motion

The final phase of the running gait cycle is dominated by the hamstrings. Upon impact, the hamstrings continue to contract, not to limit the extension of the leg but to pull the foot upward, under the glutes, to begin another cycle. The emphasis of this exercise (figure 3.4) is to pull the foot up, directly under the buttocks, shortening the arc and the length of time performing the phase so that another stride can be commenced. This exercise is performed rapidly, in staccato-like bursts. The arms are swinging quickly, mimicking the faster movement of the legs, and the hands come a little higher and closer to the body than in either the A or B motions. A more pronounced forward lean of the torso, similar to the body position while sprinting, helps to facilitate this motion.


This is an excerpt from Running Anatomy.

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