Running should be a lifelong activity. Approach it patiently and intelligently, and it will reward you for a long, long time." -Michael Sargent
Running is what millions of people worldwide look forward to each day. It might be the peace and rhythm of a long slow distance run, or the heart pounding exhilaration of a 10K, or the motivation and drive of pushing yourself to do something that is difficult, challenging, and beyond your comfort zone.
People run for many different reasons but one thing remains the same...all runners want to improve their ability to run AND want to avoid injuries that will keep them from running.
So, the big question is HOW to increase performance and avoid injury... Although there is no perfect way to run, research has provided information on how NOT to run. Whether you are a forefoot, heel strike, or mid-foot runner, form errors remain the same and should be avoided. Although running itself has not been proven to increase injury or risk of arthritis...POOR running has.
The goal of this article is to present 2 key elements to powerful running while addressing the common form errors that steal energy from your stride.
2 Keys To A More Powerful Running Stride
Efficient Landing And Shock Absorption
One of the most common limitations to powerful running I encounter, at my specialized running physical therapy center Competitive EDGE in San Jose, is poor shock absorption.
High impact forces are linked to higher rates of injuries in runners. High impact forces occur when runners rely on the "passive" system for control. The passive system can be defined as joints, bones, and ligaments. Basically, the force of running is placed on structures that were not designed to take frequent high loads.
To avoid high impact loads runners must use their "active" shock systems. The active system is the muscles and tendons. These tissues are designed to stretch, absorb, and store energy from impact loads in order to reuse the energy to produce power.
In running, proper shock absorption is associated with good hip and knee flexion angles at initial landing and peak knee flexion. Overstriding will limit these angles and increase impacts and drain power.
One of the easiest ways to decrease impact forces is to run with an optimized step cadence. Typically, research has stated 172-180 steps per minute is ideal. This will help prevent overstriding, improve hip and knee flexion, and increase your muscles ability to store and release energy resulting in a more powerful running stride.
Efficient "Triple Extension" During Propulsion
After properly absorbing impact forces with the "active" system it then follows that how you release that stored energy is equally important.
Efficient release of stored energy, in the form of stretched and loaded muscles and tendons, requires stable levers and proper quick motor control. Let me break this down a bit further...
At maximal knee flexion, the lowest part of the running stride where the muscles are most loaded, energy is required to lift the body upwards and forwards. Too much in one direction and energy is wasted. It is therefore necessary to have coordination of muscle actions to keep your running trajectory in the forward direction.
Here are the specifics of "triple extension"...
After peak knee flexion, the posterior hip muscles (gluteus muscles) need to pull the thigh and leg backwards. The front thigh muscles (quadriceps) need to work to extend the knee to a straight position and the posterior ankle muscles (calf) needs to transition the ankle from dorsiflexion to plantarflexion (pressed out like pressing a gas pedal on a car).
If any of these processes are delayed, or even worse not present, then overuse occurs.
In the picture below you will see the ideal "terminal stance" or push off position for powerful running. The leg is extended behind the body, the trunk is inclined forward, the knee is straight, and the ankle is "pushing off" the ground.
Well, there you have two keys to a powerful running stride. If you are interested in figuring out more about YOUR running stride, and you live in the San Jose area, please check out our state-of-the-art 3D running gait analysis at Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy.
Train harder, Train smarter!
Written By: Kevin Vandi DPT, OCS, CSCS
Physical Therapist serving: San Jose, Los Gatos, Almaden, Campbell
Looking For More Information On Powerful Running Technique...
Proper shock absorption and coordinated power generation are just two keys to powerful running. I have complied many more additional keys to powerful running in a 26 page running guide titled, "21 Secrets of Powerful Running...Strength Training and Expert Form Tips To Your Next PR."
The best part is that this running guide is completely FREE to download. I am passionate about helping runners achieve optimal, pain free, powerful running. If you would like a copy just click the orange button below and it will be sent to you shortly.
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Kevin Vandi, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Dr. Vandi is the founder of Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy — with his background in physical therapy, orthopedics, and biomechanics, he is a highly educated, compassionate specialist. Using state-of-the-art motion analysis technology and data-driven methodologies, Kevin has assisted a wide range of clients, from post-surgery patients to youth and professional athletes. When he isn’t busy working or reading research, he spends his time with his wife Chrissy and their five wonderful children, often enjoying the outdoors and staying committed to an active lifestyle.