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Technique: Head Position When Running

The head position is a crucial point in making the muscular system of the whole body engaged in a specific way. It could be more efficient or less efficient and balanced depending on the head position orientation. As a consequence, the movement of the body could be more efficient and better balanced or not.

Head

The reason for this influence lies in the anatomical and physiological structure of the head. With such organs as vestibular apparatus in the ears and cerebellum, directly defining and regulating the body’s position in space, the head has an exceptional influence on any movement. This regulation is accomplished by and through muscular work. First of all, through the neck’s muscles, which provide balance of the head, and extend their influence on the rest of the muscular system of the body.

The importance of this regulation of movement comes from very simple things. One of them is the relation of the body with support. What we call a balanced position of the body is actually the position of the body on support. It is a fundamental characteristic playing an undeniably important role in movement. Muscle work happens in the most efficient way when the body weight is on directly on support.

The head position is directly involved in this regulation and therefore defines all the muscular connections and movement of the body. When the head deviates from a proper position (tilts left or right, back or forward) then muscles engage in a wrong coordination and the body shifts from the support. That means that the movement of the body deteriorates as well.

These seemingly simple and obvious relations are violated very often. It most likely comes from having a blurry perception of the head position stemming from general unawareness of the body and weakness of the neck muscles, etc. Majority of people that enjoy running could do very well by going back to basics and sorting out their postural alignment when standing and walking.

 

Eyes

Our eyes exert tremendous influence on our head and body position as well. A common question and sometimes a point of contention is how far ahead are we supposed to look. Is it 5, 10 or more meters ahead or all the way to the horizon? What is the optimal length of our eyes’ focus? Opinions on this matter vary quite a bit, with many different suggestions based on different ideas, but all of them have only anecdotal evidence and very weak theoretical base.

The look of the eyes making your head position efficient isn’t related with any fixation on anything or any distance ahead. Instead it is related to perception. In martial arts this look is called: “you look, but do not see anything”. You should be ready to perceive information, but be not fixed on it. It allows you to keep the body position and muscular system in a ready condition.

Body Alignment

I guess it will be no surprise, if we say that the head position should be along the straight line going through the shoulder, hip and ball of the foot, providing for the body minimum muscular tension (just enough to keep the body at this position) perception of a stable balance and the pressure being on the ball of the foot.

This position is like that of the walking position of some tribal African women carrying heavy objects on their heads. This walking style is distinguished by smooth movement with low vertical oscillations of the body, allowing them to carry heavy objects for long distances. These women seem to carry themselves with outstanding posture and their movement looks very graceful.

These are small rules for the head position in movement and running that provide the foundation for efficient movement.

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 ]

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.