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Running Mechanics ‘A To Z’

A man running

Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains, if you want to get faster, you need to know A-Z.

To run faster you must move forward. Seems simple, but the rotary body wants you to turn left, move right, wants you to go upwards, drop, spin, tilt and seemingly travel anywhere but the direction you want to go.

Running mechanics allow you to successively summate levers to maximize your hard earned strength and conditioning, and propel you in the direction you have chosen as quickly as possible. When we sprint our skeletal and muscular system must work precisely to maximize the energy delivery of each movement to propel us forward.

The complex psychomotor skill of running is much like the complex psychomotor skill of typing. When we type our fingers must react to our thoughts and spell them out in the same way as words flow from a pen.

Sprinting as fast as possible and consciously thinking about your mechanics can not coexist; typing as fast as possible and having to hunt for the letters on the keyboard slows movement – to run full speed you can’t hunt and peck.

Understandably, the most fluent performances are achieved by the athlete who is able to leave the execution of the skill to the unconscious self. Athletes often hear the Coach saying “You are thinking too much.”

The conscious self attends solely to the higher order activities associated with the skill being performed.

The first rule in teaching running mechanics to athletes is …..they must know the rules.

  • Teach your rules over and over

  • Have a presentation several times per year

  • Test them

Like learning the keys on a computer keyboard, the athlete should learn each running skill. Alphabetizing and categorizing each drill aids in this learning process.

Develop coaching drills that teach one aspect of mechanics at the beginning of each conditioning session and continue this process year-round.

First Running Session:

“Today we will learn the Head Position drills A-D. We will run four specific drills. Throughout each running session we will learn and practice drills from A-Z. When you learn all 26 letters of Running Mechanics and do not consciously think about any of the skills and perform them all well, you will be faster,”

1. Head Position
a. Relax muscles of the face and jaw
b. Breath through mouth and nose
c. Head stationary eyes focus straight ahead
d. Head and chin should be level

2. Shoulder Position
e. Relax your neck and shoulders do not shrug
f.  Keep shoulders square

3. Arm Position
g. Keep a 90 degree angle at the elbow
h. Keep arm position while swinging your arms at the shoulder

4. The Hands
i. Natural relaxed hands

5. Arm Action
j. Do not cross the centerline of your body
k.Lead hand should stop above your chin and below eye level
l. Trail hand should end behind your hip
m.Drive trail elbow as far as you can without twisting your body
n. Swing arm from the shoulder joint

6. Rear Action of the Arms
o. Thumb brushes thigh and clears buttocks
p. Right angle during stroke
q. Allow to open only slightly
r.  Avoid excess swinging of the lower arm

7. Torso
s. Run Tall
t. Vertical or slightly forward
u. Do not allow torso rotation
v. Do not crunch or bend backwards

8. Knee Lift
w. Knee is raised until the thigh is nearly parallel to the ground

9. Foot Placement
x. Toe is up
y. The foot should land under the hip
z. Force is applied into the ground in a down and backwards direction

Alphabetize Your Sprint Mechanics & Get Strong



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