Workout Plans Qualified Personal Trainer

Running Mechanics 101

Premier Global NASM
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This demonstration video will show you approach running with the proper mechanics and form. Although everyone has different bodies - and thus different biomechanics at work, Francis will walk you through the basics. 

You can apply what you learn and train clients of all running styles. If you have taken a personal training course and are looking to branch out into proper movement, the information in this post complements the Corrective Exercise Specialisation nicely! 

Video and Transcript


Francis Sanderson (00:00):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to West Cornwall. My name is Francis Sanderson, for those who don't know me. I work under fitness and strength training in Camborne and Cornwall. My background is professional rugby. I've a university master's in strength and conditioning as well.

So today, I'm going to take you through running mechanics. These I've used in the professional game, and I use them with pretty much all of my clients, with the exception of people who medically can't do the running exercises. I probably wouldn't do it with maybe swimmers or cyclists, but possibly in the off season, as a little bit of cross training.

Francis Sanderson (00:38):

So I've taken this out onto our exclusive running track. It's just a little bit of smooth tarmac in the car park. Normally I would do the work with the guys on their running on the pitch or, with the hockey, I'd do on the Astro netball on the court that they play on.

So whichever surface is suited to that sport or that sport is played on, I'll do it on those. But for here, I'm going to do it on the tarmac, so you can see what's going on with my feet.

Francis Sanderson (01:09):

Okay, to start off with, I would take them through a general mobility drills in possibly on the floor, getting the hips loose, get the shoulders loose, ankles, everything, and then possibly a little bit of stretching. In the stretching, one stretch I definitely would do, ten second hold on the hip flexor stretch.

So tuck the bottom underneath, lean the hips forward and reach over. Just make sure that those hip flexors are nice and loose.

Francis Sanderson (01:38):

Just by the way, guys, if any of you have any questions on this, please look me up Fit and Strength Training on Instagram. I will be happy to answer questions on the exercises and clarify bits and pieces for you.

So once we've gone through a little bit of mobility and a little bit of a stretching, and then possibly some activation exercises, I'd then take them onto the field for a little bit more of a dynamic warmup.

So looking at a walking lunge with a good step over. You can advance that a little bit more onto the front cross then, with the walking lunge and a twist over the front knee.

Francis Sanderson (02:25):

So walking lunge. Then we can go into a dynamic hamstring. So front legs straight, sitting back into the bent leg. Sweep the arms through, take a couple of steps, swap over legs. Again, advance that one a little bit for back slings. Front leg straight again, back leg bent. Sit down into it.

Opposite hand comes to touch the toe. The other hand goes up in the air. Take a couple of steps. Just make sure with these, that you walk through on the leg that you've just stretched. Okay?

Francis Sanderson (02:57):

So last little bit. Rugby players, players love this, a little bit of a dynamic groin stretch. So just coming down, sitting back into it. Getting a little bit of a stretch on the inside. Then we should be ready to start our drill. So I'm going to start from the feet and work our way up.

Francis Sanderson (03:22):

With the feet to start off with, we're looking at walking on the heels. Walking on the heels, taking small steps forward. All of these drills can go forward, sideways, backwards. Just take little steps with it.

Reason, walking on the heels, we want to get the tibialis anterior activated, ready for our running. Then also, it's really good for the ankle mobilization. The last point for that, legs being straight means that you're switching on your hip stabilizers. You've got to be really good through your center.

Francis Sanderson (03:55):

Progressing on onto the ball of the foot. What you might not be able to see here is that my foot is only about a credit card slither off the floor. This means then that every time I come forward, I'm on the calf.

The calf is getting active. Every step I take forwards, I'm lifting the top of my foot onto the front of my shin. So the toe stay fairly relaxed and we're just getting that movement. What this is doing again, we get tibialus anterior activation, but also we're getting pre-activation in the calf ankle complex. So we've got the ankle mobilization and that pre-activation of the calf.

Francis Sanderson (04:37):

Moving on, we want to get power. We want to be springy with this. So we're going to go into pogos. Two-footed. Again, every time my feet leave the floor, I'm trying to draw the top of my foot to the front of my shin.

This is pre-loading the calf. Getting the calf preloaded so that when it comes back down to the ground, the calf muscle itself should be held. We're using all the elasticity properties within the muscle, within the tendon complex, to be able to spring us off the floor.

That's free energy. That's brilliant. That'll help us progress on, make us faster and make the running easier.

Francis Sanderson (05:17):

A more advanced technique, once they've got the two-footed, you could go into height or go sideways. You might see me bend my knees a little bit more, my hips a little bit more and using my arms using my arms to propel myself up.

But I'm also used my knees and hips just to help a little bit more of the absorption. Most of the absorption we do want, and the propulsion from the ankle calf complex, but it gets a little bit hard when you're looking at height.

Francis Sanderson (05:49):

Again, advancing on again, go to ankling. So it's exactly the same, just single leg. But looking at that hip, shoulder, all the center being nice and solid. Getting forwards, backwards, sideways with that.

For field sports or team sports where you've got change of direction, you could include tennis and badminton, all those kinds of sports in there as well, anything with a change the direction. Circling ankling. So you're circling the foot. You're still looking for that quick, light speed off the floor, but it's coming in at different angles, which is great for proprioception.

Francis Sanderson (06:27):

So that's the calf called complex working. Well, let's move up the chain. So a little bit on running mechanics to start off with, when you run, you want to be attacking the ground pretty much underneath your center of gravity and your foot drawing backwards.

This will tend you towards a flat to forfeit run or ball of the foot run on a slow run, and it will be a ball of a foot run, a sprint when you go to higher speeds. There always are exceptions to the rule. There are a couple of people who are able to heel strike with their foot coming underneath them.

Francis Sanderson (07:06):

But as a general rule, the general runner, if they heel strike, it'll be out in front of them. The ground reaction force because their foot is going forwards, is pushing back on them and slowing you down.

Now for deceleration, that's what we want. But for running, we don't want that. So what we want is the foot and the leg to come through and to be attacking the ground coming backwards. So bear that in mind when you're going through all the rest of this.

So marching. From now on, heels are just off the floor a slither, just a credit card. They don't touch the floor. We're on the ball of our foot the whole time.

Francis Sanderson (07:42):

Stance leg straight, pushing the floor away, nice and active, and the glute keeping all your centers strong. The cycling leg comes up heel to bottom. Knee pointed forwards and toe pointed forward.

Now, the toe pointed forward is pre-activating that calf ready for the foot strike against the floor. The heel coming towards the bottom, keeps the leg cycling close underneath you. If you have a big, long backwards cycle, you are going to expand extra energy.

Francis Sanderson (08:15):

Think about it. If you hold a weight close to you, it's really light. If you hold the same weight out, it makes it heavier. What we want to do is keep that leg close underneath there, so it expands as little energy as possible. So marching. Stance leg straight.

The cycle leg comes up heel to bottom, toe, knee pointed forwards. Opposite arm to hand. When you look at me from the front, my feet should be striking underneath my hips.

Only small steps. My hips are staying level. My shoulders' staying level. Everything is my center, up to my head is staying perfectly still and trying to move along smoothly with my legs going underneath me quickly.

Francis Sanderson (08:56):

Progressive march onto a skip. Again, upper body should be staying still like in the cartoons. The upper body stays still with the legs really quickly underneath. That's what we're looking for.

With a skip, you're thinking light and quick off the floor. It's still the same thing with the feet underneath the hips and the arms, opposite arm. Now the arms, think about lips, hips, lips, hips. Keeps the elbow belt.

Again, the same thing with the legs. We don't want the arms throwing out really wide because it will send you off. You can see the rotation in my body there. So we keep them close in and they're helping counteract and create the forces to help with the foot strike and the power through the body.

Francis Sanderson (09:43):

Now the feet wants to be under the hips. If you imagine when you're running, if you're running like you are on a catwalk, so feet on one line, or even over, all your force vectors are going up outside of your body.

Now that's wasted energy when you're running. But more important, when you come to things like rugby where you're looking for a tackle, if my force vector is going outside my body and I'm going into a tackle, it reduces the force I'm allowed ... I can apply. So I want the feet underneath the body to be able to increase the force through.

Francis Sanderson (10:13):

The same could be said for tackling in football. Have my foot out to the sides, so the force vector goes that way. If somebody's coming in with their shoulder, I'm going to stand up better.

So you can, once you know the rules, you can slightly bend the rules. So that's into an A skip. We can have a look at B skip, which gets a little bit more hamstring and pull through. One of my best exercise.

Francis Sanderson (10:38):

But what I really do like for guys who struggle with their control around the center is what a coach called Tony Holler does in America, is a boom, boom.

So you're looking for that skip, that snappy changeover, but you're holding, doing a couple of hops. With those hops, you're looking to keep all your center, your hips, your shoulders, everything, nice and level, straight and strong.

Francis Sanderson (11:10):

So, A skips, B skips, boom, booms. Let's move on. Now this last exercise, it does take a while to get. I perhaps introduce it in the first year that I work with a team or an athlete, but I don't really get them to do it for probably two years onwards because they really need to nail down to the ankling and the skipping.

It's essentially ankling and skipping all in one. So back foot is going to do ankling, front leg is going to do the cycling.

Francis Sanderson (11:45):

So back leg is just doing the ankling, front leg cycling. Now don't try and get you guys to do that straight away. Some of them who are really competent with movement mechanics, they might be able to get it straight away.

Most people won't. Start off, get the back leg straight. Glutes switched on into that ankling. It's just poking you forward. Keep that leg straight. So all I'm doing, rocking back and forth, poking myself along.

Francis Sanderson (12:11):

Once they're happy with that and they're able to go forward with that, is then to bring up the cycling with the front leg. Just saying to them, "Can you lift your heel off the floor? Can you lift your heel off the floor?"

Then you can start giving them cues of, think about heel to bottom, toe knee pointed forwards. With this, again, we're looking for feet hip width apart and keeping yourself nice and level from the front. From the side, have a look at their waist. Are they doing the funky chicken? We don't want to see that. We want to see upper body nice and strong and straight and their legs working beneath them.

Francis Sanderson (12:52):
So those are the run mechanics. They're great as a warmup, before you go into a field session or sprint session. But they're also brilliant for helping people understand and get their mechanics better.

Start off with the ankling, with the ankling work and the ... on about five meters, maybe forwards, backwards. Netball and small courts, you probably would go straight into sideways for five meters. Bigger pitches like football, rugby, hockey, maybe you'd go extend it out to 10 meters forwards and backwards before you play around with sideways.

Francis Sanderson (13:28):

The skipping and the jammers, 20 meters. Get it out 20 meters. Or tell me to start off with, then up to 10, 20 meters. Get them working in progressing and able to hold themselves for the whole 20 meters.

Who would I use this for? Everyone. I've said this before. Everyone. The only people, medical conditions and cyclists and swimmers, potentially in the off season as a little bit of cross training.

Francis Sanderson (13:56):

Remember, please do ... I'll give you a lot of information there. So please do fire off any questions on any of these exercises or how to apply them.

In the meantime, my name is Francis Sanderson at Fit and Strength Training on Instagram. Message me on there. Get yourself outside, have a play around with these, and you'll think you'll find them really, really good fun. Take care now.

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