Drills To Reinforce Movement Patterns
Special thanks to Jay Dicharry, Joel Wolpert (videographer) and the US Air Force for their collaborative work for this section.
See our Efficient Running YouTube Site for videos
Two Rivers Treads
Lets do Lunge series
Other than putting in more miles,learning better form, and focusing on the mobility and strength , how can we become more efficient runners?
Running is a neuromuscular activity.
We progress through drills in 3 phases:
- Smarter -Develop correct movement pattern and coordination though 1000’s of repetitions
- Stronger– Build strength, balance, and stability in key postural muscles
- Spring!- Gradually advance and fine tune with more dynamic movements to add power and spring (i.e. plyometrics)
You can improve your running with form drills that coordinate the running movements. These are simple to perform and cause little impact stress to the body if done correctly and progressively. Drills when properly performed aid the runner’s neuromuscular sense and strength development.
The drills isolate the movements of the gait cycle:
- put foot to ground closer to center of mass
- improve and maintain range of motion
- strength and stability in stance
- power in hip extension
- rhythm (cadence)
- springy “pop” off the ground
A properly performed drill assists running form because the former becomes the latter. You will develop a stronger and smarter spring. The key is maintaining proper form with better power. Less done correctly is better than more. Focus on proper form.
Drills should be performed twice a week and can be completed in 10-15 minutes.
These are best done on days when you are not fatigued and after you are warmed up. You need not do all of these. Pick some you like and find easy and a couple you find a bit challenging.
Our goal is to help make you more efficient without running hard or more. Plus skipping, jumping, springing, and short sprints are fun if done painlessly and with good form.
You progress based on motor learning. You need to work on the skill of moving specific muscles. It takes thousands of reps before you develop proper control of specific parts. After you really know how to identify those parts, then you are ready to work on improving their strength, and their speed (springiness).
All the drills outlined below naturally progress through Smarter- Stronger – Spring! as you master the movements first, and then apply speed and power.
We give you a menu here of some easier and progressive drills in Level 1 followed by a few more with additional challenge in Level 2. Pick three to five in Level 1 first. Over weeks and either with the self instruction of the videos or with an instructor progress to some in Level 2 if you choose.
Phase 1 Drill: Jump Rope
(a) This drill requires a runner to jump rope in place.
(b) Jumping rope trains the elastic recoil. This trains our feet and ankles to work as they were designed – like powerful springs, which greatly reduces the amount of energy required to run. Jumping rope develops balance and rhythm.
(c) To perform this drill: Jump with light, quick, full-foot contact. Time your cadence to about 180 beats per minute. When your cadence, springy-ness, and rhythm are good, add the jump rope. Start with a duration of one minute, and build up to performing this drill for five minutes.
(d) Once you feel the rhythm of the jump rope, try running with it. To do this you must keep proper balance and rhythm and maintain a slight lean. You should not over-stride.
Phase 1 Drill: Fast Feet
(a) The fast-feet drill requires a runner to load and spring from the glutes through the ankle and foot.
(b) Doing so teaches the correct loading action of the foot and corrects the incorrect form of “lifting” some people do when running. You want to prevent runners from “lifting” their feet off the ground and instead teach them to “pop” off the ground using the force activated by the glutes pushing the foot downward.
(c) To perform this drill. Relax the upper body. Then, start running in place. As each foot comes down to contact the ground, fold the foot elastically down to the surface from the toe to the heel. Think “push, push, push.” When the heel barely touches the surface, it should bounce off, using the downward force from the glutes. Quicken your steps to faster than 180 a minute if you can.
Phase 1 Drill: Ninja Squat Jumps
(a) Ninja Squat Jumps require a runner to jump onto an elevated surface.
(b) Doing so trains the runner to absorb the stresses of landing throughout the lower body. When starting out, squat jumps should be performed only by jumping up onto the box, to teach shock absorption strategy. Once the runner has learned to land softly, practice jumping both onto and off of the box.
(c) To perform this drill. Make sure that you have an elevated surface approximately mid-shin in height. Stand against the box, and jump up onto the box. The goal is to land on the box and land as quietly as possible. Then, step down off the box, and try again. Practice this drill for ten to thirty jumps. When jumping onto the box is mastered, practice jumping off of the landing as quietly as possible. When both have been mastered, progressively raise the box’s height. Advanced athletes can jump onto and off of a box that is mid-thigh in height without making a sound.
Phase 1 Drill: Four Square
(a) The Four Square drill requires a runner to jump on one foot, landing in a different location each time.
(b) Doing so builds coordination and strength of the hip stabilizers.
(c) To perform this drill: Draw a small square grid the floor in tape, or use a tile floor to simulate the grid. You can also eyeball landmarks on the ground for spatial awareness, if necessary. Then, jump from the corner of one box to the next as quickly as possible, landing on the same foot each time. Practice this drill for ten seconds and do two to six sets.
(d) Note: this drill can also be done as Lateral Jumps by simply jumping back and forth over a stick.
Phase 1 Drill: Heel Lift
(a) The Heel Lift requires a runner to lift the foot using the back of the leg instead of the front.
(b) The goal is to teach the runner to activate the glutes and hamstrings, and not default to the quads, to lift the leg. It is more efficient to share the work of raising the leg with muscles on the front and back of the leg instead of the muscles on the front doing all the work.
(c) To perform this drill: Stand in neutral posture, using the hamstring/glute, bend one knee so that the lower leg rises up behind you. The thigh should remain vertical the entire time; it is only necessary to lift the lower leg to about 90 degrees, there is no need to do “butt kicks.” Alternate legs, almost as if you’re doing heel flicks. Gradually increase speed until you are practically running in place using only the hamstrings and glutes to lift the lower leg. While doing this, lean slightly forward or backward as if on a Segway. Move backward for 100 feet, then forward 100 feet. The goal is springy contact with the ground, not to run fast. Do three to four reps of 100 feet forward and backward.
Phase 1 Drill: Karaoke or Grapevine
(a) Karaoke transfers the springiness of running to the lateral plane.
(b) This drill teaches a runner to use the lateral stabilizers, the muscles on outside of hip. It should first be practiced at a walk, then progressively increased to a run with short balanced steps, and, finally, running at full speed.
(c) To perform this drill: Stand in neutral posture, with arms outstretched to the sides. Moving sideways, let your outside leg – the one opposite the direction you are traveling– move first in front of and then behind the inside leg. When moving in front of the inside leg, you should lift the leg so that the thigh is parallel to the ground in a “kick.” Try to keep the upper body still while the hips rotate through 180 degrees.
Phase 2 Drill: ABCD Skips
(a) ABCD Skips should only be practiced if the runner has no structural joint problems and is injury free.
(b) A skips- The emphasis for this skip is on a quick push of your foot to the ground, which initiates the knee lift of the opposite leg. This is not a high-knee “lifting;” instead, the leg powerfully pushes down with the purpose of bouncing off the ground. This skip requires strong hip extension and propels the runner forward.
(c) B skips- The emphasis for this skip is on pulling the leg down with glutes and hamstrings, preparing for the contact phase closer to your center of mass.
(d) C skips- This drill takes mobility and coordination; so progress gradually, starting with small hops. The emphasis for this skip is on extending/driving the push off leg. The pelvis must be neutral and the lower back should not be extended. When practicing this skip, focus on your hip extension to achieve some “hang time.” Land softly, and load your legs as if they were a spring. Do one bound at a time at walking speed to get the coordination, then progress to a faster speed.
(e) D skips- This drill emphasizes the elastic “pop” of the foot off the ground. With a strong and springy foot, flick the heel up towards the glutes. Be sure to use the foot for recoil primarily and assist with the hamstrings, not the calves, quads, or lower back. Jog gently forward and flick the heel up on every 2nd step following the same principles. Note that the lower leg need not go beyond parallel to ground.
(f) Perform these in a series of ABCD about 10 yards each. Relax, turn around and then return to the start with a quick 40-meter stride. Do four to six sets, making sure to fully recover between sets.
Phase 2 Drill: Strides / Pickups
(a) This drill teaches the coordination of running and can be a lot of fun. Humans love to sprint for short distances. The goal is to increase leg speed without stressing body.
(b) The emphasis for this drill is on quick turnover. It can be done as long as your legs are not fatigued and there are no areas of local soreness. The distances are short, and the pace should gradually increase with each consecutive stride. These should not be tiring as the distances are very short.
(c) To perform this drill: Complete four to six strides over 50 meters. This can be performed with ABCD, or alone. Be sure to recover sufficiently between strides. Fewer strides executed correctly is best. Focus on relaxed quickness to make sure you don’t “muscle through” them. You can progress to some uphill (mild-slope, 4-8% grade) sprints to develop even more strength. You get faster without running HARD!
Phase 2 Drill: Run with Tether
(a) This drill does require some additional props – a tether and something stable and solid to which the tether can attach. A mini-trampoline, if available, is also a good prop for this drill.
(b) Running with a tether requires the runner to maintain a neutral posture and focus on driving away from the anchor. This ensures the runner is placing the foot close to under center, and firing the glutes, not “lifting” the leg.
(c) To perform this drill: Attach the tether to a stable item such as a fence post or pole, and then around your waist. Stand on the ground or the trampoline and practice extending your feet down and back, while you try to pull away from the tether.
Some additional exercises that you can do throughout day (we call the exercise snacks)
Walk backward and focus on hip extension
- Walking lunges forward and backward. This works on hip mobility and stability
- Old fashioned jumping jacks. Great for the spring of the feet and Achilles.
- Basic squats- works glute activation (see mobility/stability section)
- Ditch the chair and stand on one leg
Additional stuff worth viewing
3 Essential Drills from my friend Bobby McGee
Drills with Dathan Ritzehein. Fun and simple drill sets
Dynamic warmup routine with Dathan