The running cycle drill is an excellent way to develop a number of elements typically found in an efficient running form:
- reduce over-striding
- increase cadence
- practise running tall
- increase propulsion
- improve arm movement
It is particularly useful for runners who have a tendency to use the muscles at the front of their legs (quadriceps) more than those at the back. In contrast to walking, running is about driving the legs backwards instead of lifting them up in front of you. Compare it to a bow and arrow: driving a leg backwards is the equivalent of pulling back the string of the bow; your knee coming forwards is the release of the arrow. The running cycle drill focuses on developing this back force by experiencing how it produces a naturally faster swing through. By incorporating the arms, the coordination and neuromuscular demands of actual running are close enough to mean that the skills can be transferred.
From a single leg running position, drive the raised foot down towards the ground, aiming to land just in front of the other foot. At the same time, drive the opposite elbow back in a running motion.
The more powerfully you drive back, the higher the heel will want to rise behind you. As your bent leg swings through, imagine there are pieces of string pulling both the heel and the knee of up.
You should now find yourself in your start position again, and ready to repeat the cycle. Your arms should have returned to their start position. These cycles work on your coordination, so to start slowly.
As soon as the foot touches the ground, pull it backwards like a bull getting ready to charge. Though the action stays light, emphasise the drive backwards by scraping the ground beneath you.
Glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis
Sets & Reps:
3 sets of 12 repetitions (each leg)
Slow, medium, fast.
Include in warm ups / skill sessions
Watch a video of how to perform this drill:
Short Grass – Long Grass
A useful tip when performing this drill is to imagine that your foot is trying to clear grass as your leg swings through. To practise a low power drive, imagine the grass below you is not long. As your confidence and fluidity increases, imagine the grass is now a little taller, so that by driving back more powerfully the foot and knee pass a little higher. Finally, for maximum drive, aim to pass over the top of long grass beneath you. Finding analogies like these can be a great way of developing coordination and fluidity during drills.
Matt Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic in Sussex.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt