How High to Pull Your Foot Up When Running?

How high should you pull your foot up when running and with how much effort? To know the answer to this question, one has to understand the purpose of the action of pulling your foot up when running. This is where the importance of understanding the ‘why’ is highlighted again. Reading the theory and understanding it through and through is not about complicating what most of us wish was such a natural form of locomotion – running. Contrary to that common assumption and in my opinion, gaining full understanding of the subject is actually about gaining freedom. Freedom to effortlessly do what needs to be done because you know exactly what is happening, you know the rules and you can work with them at any speed on any terrain.

Required Height

To put it simply, the necessary height of the pull will sort itself out. You do not need to think about it, all you need to do is make a slight effort to pull your foot up high enough to clear the ground and so it allows for change of support because running is nothing but ‘change of support’ while falling forward. In the Pose Method of Running, the pull is the last element of the technique that allows for the most efficient transition from one foot to the other. All you need is to execute the action of pulling correctly – everything else will be done for you. Trust the natural forces.

Minimal Effort

Effortless running is achieved through biomechanically proper technique because such technique works with and uses the natural forces such as gravity. By its very definition, effortless running requires or should take less effort. So, if all we need to do is change support in order to run, then the ultimate goal is to do that action with the least possible effort. Narrowing down all required action to a single action of pulling in the Pose Method of Running gets us closer to running with less effort, and actively working just one group of muscles – the hamstrings – fits the purpose and serves it well.

You will notice that putting less intentional effort into pulling your feet up by utilizing the hamstrings only, will help you do it correctly. You will also notice that such an important thing as high cadence is easier to achieve, if you don’t strain to pull your feet all the way up.

Putting less intentional effort into pulling your feet up by utilizing the hamstrings only, will help you do it correctly.

The general rule is – you’re better off pulling your foot up less than more. If you pull too high and/or too hard you will waste energy and will tire your hamstrings and might get injured. Think about the typical injury for sprinters – pulled hamstrings. Keep in mind, that the exaggerated motion of the pull, demonstrated in the running drills, is strictly for learning purposes, to help your body learn better patterns of movement required for running.

What about other muscles? Leave them alone. All you need is to do one action – pulling your feet up with your hamstrings – to set everything in the right motion with minimal effort.

Various Speeds

When you run faster, your foot will end up higher. I say ‘end up’ because you are not supposed to be putting any effort into pulling it higher or leaving it lower. That’s too much to think about especially in sprinting where everything happens way before you can think about it. If you’re thinking about it, you are already too late.

When you run faster, your foot will end up higher.

(This is happening on its own and due to the forces already in play, Bolt is NOT PUTTING EFFORT INTO PULLING his foot up this high.)

There is no need to put any effort into forcing your foot so high. The entire trajectory of your foot will determine itself based on your speed. All you have to do is focus on maintaining your running pose.

At a slower speed your feet will be noticeably and naturally lower. When jogging, your running might resemble shuffling. Your feet will be at their lowest height of the pull.

 

Recommended:

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Learning about balance and proper running technique is part of the Pose Method® Running Course. This seminar offers 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Usain Bolt Can Top His Own World Record

Usain Bolt could run 100m in 9.11 seconds. Given his constitution, genetics and his running technique he has what it takes and then some.

The difference between calculated potential and actual performance is the athlete’s ability to deliver and especially do so when it matters the most. For example, Bolt’s performance in Berlin in 2009 vs the following Olympics in London in 2012 – World Championship (9.58) vs Olympics (9.63). Less pressure vs more pressure, plus additional factors of course.

Everyone from fans and sports writers to former world record holders and astrophysicists have been speculating about human potential when it comes to dashing for 100m ever since Bolt clocked 9.58. However, all predictions seem to still only hover around 9.4 with the maximum human potential claimed to be at 9.36… nobody dares to even utter anything lower than that because just a ‘blink in history’ ago 9.58 seemed out of reach. Researches even announced that they had to reassess their calculations because they couldn’t have predicted Bolt.

That was in 2008, so all eyes were on 2012 and we were amazed with the new 100m men’s Olympic record of 9.63. But in the world of sprint it’s miles away from 9.36. Running at that speed is beyond most humans. At least for now.

Tracking the 100m world records through the years it’s almost painful to look at the tenths of seconds involved, and most humans couldn’t be bothered. After all, some of us blink slower than that. But, 9.11 is possible, and at this point and time, if anyone can do it – it’s Bolt. Yes, his physique is a factor, so is his character and mind. But most importantly – his technique, it is his gateway to greatness.

The calculations that produced the 9.36 as the maximum human speed were pure mathematics based on accumulated data of best times posted. However, to calculate human potential based on what humans have been able to achieve thus far is to severely limit that potential. In order to correctly assess the possible potential what we need is a correct and clear conceptual model. In our case, it’s a conceptual model of running.

According to Dr. Romanov’s calculations based on the Pose Method of RunningBolt is capable of running 100m in 9.11 seconds. Bolt has already demonstrated that his mind is as strong as his body. Yet to break his own records he would have to slightly adjust his technique and, most importantly, break through his own perception of his own potential.

There are no “handcuffs” stronger than the ones in our mind. He’s been talking about 9.4 for a while now. Though the world’s fastest man has been hampered by a recurring hamstring injury, which points to the fact that his technique is suffering and needs attention, he’s been able to produce great results and tonight he might surprise the world yet again. “I want to do more to make it even bigger“, a quote from Usain Bolt’s Olympic profile seems to point to his desire to achieve more. Well, he sure can. The only question is – will he be able to deliver?

Usain Bolt, the golden boy of sprinting, is set to entertain the world yet again. And there is nothing more fascinating and exciting than watching someone so gifted in action, racing towards greatness and looking to outdo himself.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do” he says. Well, young man, so are we. Godspeed!

Here’s a link to Dr. Romanov’s analysis of Bolt’s running technique and recommendations on what he needs to adjust in order to run even faster.

 

About the Author

Lana Romanov is a Director of Certification and Continuing Education at Pose Method, Inc. Having studied and worked at the company since 2001, Lana develops and maintains the continuing education program for health + fitness professionals. She also writes short articles and assists with research efforts.

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Learning about balance and proper running technique is part of the Pose Method® Running Course. This seminar offers 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Training: How to Increase Running Speed in One Simple Step

Whether you can maintain your newfound speed for the required distance, say 40 yards or 100 meters, is a matter of training and your skill level. Whether you can run faster than Usain Bolt is a matter of your physical stats and genetic potential (p.189) in addition to training and skill level.

One thing is for sure, however, whatever your current running speed is, you can run faster immediately by simply changing just one thing. Nothing else will give you the same result.

Traditionally recommended things for increasing of speed in reality prevent you from running faster. The higher you attempt to raise your knees, the harder your attempt to pump your arms or hit the ground, the more you attempt to push off and toe off – the slower you make yourself. All of those things require extra effort and throw you off balance, so you end up exerting more effort without any increase in speed. You, most likely, have experienced that and know how frustrating it can be.

What you really want to do is:

  1. stay relaxed yet focused,
  2. apply minimal effort and
  3. use natural forces to your advantage.

That’s natural running at its best.

Now, the question is: how do you use natural forces to run? To say ‘stay relaxed yet focused’ is to describe how you should feel not what you should do. So how do you instruct someone what to do in order to tell them how to run? That is what the Pose Method® of Running is all about. If you’re not familiar with it – go ahead and follow that link, it will make the following paragraphs clearer.

How to Increase Your Running Speed

Commonly given advice is more of an advice for a training session or on running form. You’re told to “warm up, stay upright, land on forefoot, focus on posture”, etc. While improving your running form will definitely make you faster and more efficient in general, it still doesn’t answer the main question – how do you actually increase your running speed? What do you do? Especially if you’re already in motion? Knowing how to do that will make all the difference during a race or the game.

Running faster is about your skill, not strength or power. A certain level of strength is absolutely necessary  in order to withstand such a physically demanding activity as running, but your muscles do not produce your speed. Muscles serve a different purpose.

To run faster you need to master just one thing – angle of falling. It’s your ‘gas pedal’. Fall forward more – run faster. Fall forward less – run slower. Within the Pose Method framework, that is all that needs to happen in order to unleash your speed. Your speed is under your command when you learn to operate with the angle of falling.

By-products of Increased Speed

When you increase your speed several things happen as a result. The important part here is to understand where your efforts should be applied.

  • Stride Frequency will have to be increased. To maintain speed and to prevent tumbling over you’ll have to change your support faster. This is one of the reasons that strength training is so important for runners. In sprinting it is the intensity of speed, in long distance it is the extent of miles to be continuously covered that necessitates the ability to pull and keep on pulling your foot up in order to keep changing support in order to keep moving. A good thing here is that stride frequency of 180 and above activates a natural muscle-tendon elasticity mechanism

    Keep in mind, that you can easily increase the frequency of change of support and still stay in one place. You won’t move forward until you introduce a degree of falling forward to your movements.

  • Magnitude of Pulling your foot from support and under your hips increases and do so by itself, i.e. no effort on your part is required. Due to increase in angle of falling and stride frequency, your foot will come up higher than normal, right under your buttocks. The key is to understand that you won’t need to do it, the inertia and other forces interacting will do it for you. In fact, the trajectory of your entire leg will map itself out.

Recommended Reading:

  • Gravity’s role in accelerated running – a comparison of an experienced Pose® and heel-toe runner. (International Society Of Sports Biomechanics, XXV11, 374-377, 2009)
  • Geometry of Running. (European College Of Sport Science, July 5-8, 2006 Switzerland)
  • Runners Do Not Push Off the Ground But Fall Forwards Via a Gravitational Torque. (Sports Biomechanics Journal, 2007)
  • Романов, Н. С. Роль силы тяжести в ускорении тела бегуна вперед / Н. С. Романов, А. И. Пьянзин, Е. В. Никитина, В. И. Васильев / Актуальные вопросы физической культуры и спорта: материалы Всероссийской научно-практической конференции. – Новочебоксарск: НФ РГУФКСМиТ, 2012. – С. 75–80 (0,31/0,08 п.л.).
  • The Independent Effects of Gravity and Inertia on Running Mechanics. The Journal of Experimental Biology 203, 229–238 (2000)
  • Muscle Activity in Running. The Extensor Paradox Experiment. Biomechanics of Distance Running. Human Kinetics Books, 1990
  • Bartlett, R., Romanov, N., Fletcher, G. A Case Study of Two National Standard Sprinters Completing a Pose and Traditional Sprint Start Technique. Journal of Athletic Enhancement, Vol 3; 2014 doi:10.4172/2324-9080.1000145

 

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Learning about balance and proper running technique is part of the Pose Method® Running Course. This seminar offers 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Training: Improve balance to increase speed

In general, better balance translates into a more coordinated effort and higher precision of movement regardless of sport, so working on balance should be an important part of any good training regimen for any athlete. But how does our balance affect our speed? The answer is – indirectly, but rather significantly and it’s not as complicated as it might seem.

Centuries ago a visionary extraordinaire Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) wrote the following about motion, balance, and foot contact: “The legs, or centre of support, in men and animals, will approach nearer to the centre of gravity, in proportion to the slowness of their motion; and, on the contrary, when the motion is quicker, they will be farther removed from that perpendicular line.”¹

From the Pose Method® point of view, speed is determined by the degree of falling but in order to even start falling you have to be in the position of balance first. As you can see, balance is an essential part of movement. In order for movement to happen there has to be balance first and then it has to be destroyed, then you find balance again and to go anywhere from that point, that newly found balance has to be destroyed again… and voila! you’re moving.

Take a look at this video to help you connect the dots. Gravity – balance – movement – everything is connected. Improve your understanding of this topic, improve your basic skills and you will progress further and faster.

Balance

It is not sport specific. Balance is balance. There is, however, static balance and there is dynamic balance. In sports the dynamic balance is more obvious visually and mentally since this is what we see when the athlete is in motion. Only a fraction of a second is given for the static balance to happen, but it happens nonetheless. It has to occur in order for movement to take place and to continue. And because of such a limited time frame of its occurrence, it becomes much more important to get a better handle on static balance.

The dynamic balance is no less significant and is actually more difficult to perfect, but by working on developing your dynamic balance skill you will strengthen what is commonly the weak link. And we all know the old adage – the system is only as strong as its weakest link. The dynamic balance is interwoven with movement. If you only have a fraction of a moment to execute that chain of events, you better believe that you won’t be able to think about it, focus on it too much, etc… It will just have to happen as part of motion. So the better your balance skill is, the better your movement will be.

Within the Pose Method® framework, improved balance serves as a foundation for a better fall, which in its turn serves to produce better forward movement. Your ability to quickly and smoothly transition between the state of balance and the fall, will help you improve your speed.

Practice Balance

While there are many exercises that can be done to improve balance, here’s the basic drill that you should start with that relates specifically to running technique. And to increase the level of difficulty – do it with your eyes closed. (You have to be a subscriber to view these videos)

Here are another couple of good drills that seems simple and easy but reveal the weak spots.


4-Week Speed Training Program

To help you train and improve your speed, we put together a complete Speed Development Video program that will help you get faster in no time. Take a look at Day 1 training session.

You’re invited to try this entire program free for 7 days and see the results. Click here to sign up.

 

References: 

¹A Treatise on Painting, by Leonardo Da Vinci, Chap. LXVIII.—Of the Centre of Gravity in Men and Animals.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Learning about balance and proper running technique is part of the Pose Method® Running Course. This seminar offers 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Muscle Elasticity

What is muscle elasticity? If you were to stretch a muscle you would see it shrink back a bit. In plain words, it’s a natural ability to recover to original form upon the removal of the force initially applied. In physical activity it is the ability of muscles to perform work, specifically, to contract rapidly after and immediately prior to extension.

A human body is a mix of physics, geometry, psychology and all that good stuff, so we should not talk about muscles and their function as separate from the whole. Muscles are a part of our entire system, and as such, whatever functions they perform or whatever is going on, it does not happen on its own. There is a whole chain of processes happening.

What is Muscle Elasticity

So, actually, ‘muscle elasticity’ is an incorrect term to use. Muscles do not work independently, nor do they work under our command. The sooner you let go of what you imagine you control, the sooner you will discover what you do control and consequently you will move better.

In Pose Method all of the key elements that are of any significance or benefit are brought together. Everything is connected. The center of the method, the Pose, is the most ‘ready to go’ pose of the body facilitating optimum elasticity allowing for the most effective interaction with the support where the entire musculoskeletal structure is ‘loaded’ with potential energy.

When we talk about muscle elasticity what we should be discussing is a ‘muscle-tendon complex’. Tendons play a very important and active role in this process, but the muscles run the show, yet let’s not forget that the true master is gravity.

Muscle-tendon Elasticity Complex

The concept of muscle-tendon elasticity complex is a relatively new one and research with the correct goals is much needed. There are, however, already some very certain and obvious facts about muscles and tendons and how they work together making for a unique system. For example, it is a fact that tendons can stretch more than muscles. It is most likely because tendons were meant to stretch and muscles weren’t as much, muscles were meant to contract and relax.

Speaking of tendons, let’s mention the Achilles tendon, the biggest tendon in our entire body, which just happens to be located at the ankle, which is part of the ‘mechanism’ of movement like walking, running. So instead of being concerned with overloading the largest tendon of the body during running (if it is the largest tendon, is it not logical to assume that it was meant to and it can handle the loading during running? It’s not the loading it is how it’s done that causes the problem), why not question the integrity of the idea of loading the joints (knees) that were obviously meant to simply bend, yet it is often recommended to actively use them in some many other ways.

It is a requirement in Pose Method of running to keep knees slightly bent at all times, why? Besides the fact that joints bend and should not be in locked positions when in motion, especially during running, bent knees help to absorb the shock during movement. It is also a part of the ‘rules’ of the muscle-tendon elasticity complex.

How It Works

Muscle-tendon elasticity complex is the natural ability of your musculoskeletal system to ‘return to its original state’. When the limb of your body is moved in any way in any direction for any purpose, muscles and tendons accommodate by elongating or shortening at various key spots. When we move our limbs back to where the movement had started, it is easy to notice how everything goes right back to its shape and form, and place. When we pull the foot up with the hamstring we work with this mechanism.

Muscles and tendons work in unison and in tandem, each one however, with its own timing doing its own job. As should be expected and as mentioned above, muscle-tendon complex has ‘rules’. In order to ‘activate’ the complex and benefit from it, one must adhere to those ‘rules’ otherwise the effectiveness of the complex is dramatically minimized or completely lost. And worst of all – injuries happen. Muscle tears and tendon ruptures are consequences of breaking those rules and performing moves out of synch with gravity.

Muscle-tendon complex, like so many other processes in our body, happens in space and time. It is a rhythmic work of muscles & tendons combined with rhythm of loading. And, it is a biomechanical law that guarantees the magic – with high cadence muscles ‘come to life’, so to say, and work at the highest level of their elastic function. Without much effort on your part your body continues forward movement. Elite athletes, most of whom are naturally highly talented, instinctively run with high cadence. Their perception allows them to naturally sense the ease of movement provided by it.

With age muscle-tendon complex naturally changes, but the decline in elasticity is less for active people than for non-active. So keep moving!

Check out progressions of drills and exercises in our video program for runners aimed at developing your muscles’ elasticity to help you become a better runner.

Read more about muscle-tendon elasticity complex in the Pose Method of Running.

Did you know? The payoff to “elastic” running is that you can maintain a high stride rate without “going anaerobic” and using up your body’s available energy supply of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the fuel of your highest intensity sprints. Elastic running gives you the ability to run faster for greater distances and still keep something in reserve.

References:

  1. Alexander, A.M., 1988, Springs as energy stores: running. Elastic mechanisms in animal movement. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 31-50.
  2. Cavagna, G.A., Saibene, F.P. and Margaria, R., 1964, Mechanical work in running, J. Appl. Physiol., 19:249-256
  3. Cavagna, G.A., 1977, Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 5, 89-129.
  4. Cavagna, P.R., La Fortune M.A., 1980, Ground reaction forces in distance running, J. Biomech, 13:397-406.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]