Theory & Practice: What Is Overstriding in Running?

Overstriding is a very simple thing, but it is still veiled in the cloud of confusion for one simple reason – it is impossible to identify and/or define something when you operate without a clear standard.

When you are told that you’re overdoing something (and that’s what overstriding essentially means) the question arises: how did you come to a conclusion that I’m overdoing something? I think I’m just doing it. What makes you say I’m OVERdoing it? Is my ‘doing’ different from your ‘doing’? Who is to say that my ‘doing’ isn’t better than yours? Maybe what I’m doing is IT and you’re underdoing whatever it is you’re doing.

This can go on indefinitely because in that conversation we operate with opinions which are usually far from a standard and while we are all entitled to our opinions and points of view, this physical world operates by and with a set of natural laws. These laws are a part of the foundation of the conceptual model that is known as the Pose Method. But first, let’s look at the word ‘overstriding’ itself.

The Term

Over  / oh-ver/

  1. above, beyond, in excess

Stride/ straɪd/

  1. a long step or pace
  2. the space measured by such a step
  3. a striding gait
  4. an act of forward movement, completed when the legs have returned to their initial relative positions

overstride / oh-ver-strahyd /

  1. to surpass
  2. to tower over; dominate
  3. to stride or step over or across

The simple definition of the words that are used to create this term makes it clear as to what the word means and why it was chosen. Or does it? What does the action of overstriding mean and in relation to what is it considered to be an action of excess? We need a standard to compare this action to in order to get those answers.

What is Overstriding

The Pose Method® provides us with a clear standard for running and makes identification of correct actions and errors, as well as providing definitions & terms a simpler and easier process.

When you’re told that you’re overstriding – you’re going over a point that is defined as a norm, a standard. The running stride exists between the points of support and is comprised of flight and support phases. The flight phases could be the most enjoyable part of running, but it is the support phases that provide one of the most significant contributions to movement. As we change support (as our feet land on the surface we run on) the quality of that interaction largely determines the quality of our running experience.

Through research and studies we’ve identified the best, the most efficient way to move from support to support. All a runner needs to do is maintain the running pose while falling forward. When the runner stays in the running pose he or she, by default, lands on the best part of their foot and in the most ideal position which is under their body, under their general center of mass.

This brings us to a very clear definition of overstriding – within the Pose Method of running framework, overstriding is defined as landing ahead of your body, ahead of your general center of mass.

How to Visually Identify Overstriding

At a first glance it might seem as an easy task, and it could be sometimes in the most gross cases of overstriding, which is very common among recreational runners. But once you move up the ranks of pro athletes, it takes a trained coach’s eye to spot it. However, for the sake of simplicity and to provide straightforward guidelines, let’s keep the parameters, by which overstriding can be easily identified, as basic as possible for this article.

  1. Look for the proper alignment. Look for the running pose and hip position over support. Your hips are your center, not your chest.
  2. Don’t look for the footstrike type: regardless of what part of your foot you land on – forefoot, the entire surface of your foot (often referred to as midfoot) or your heel – you can still land ahead of your body. That is why at our seminars we always emphasize that it’s a mistake to focus on how and where your foot strikes the ground. The footstrike is only the result of correct action taken prior to the footstrike occuring.

But don’t go crazy measuring the inches. While numbers could be fun, and math can provide solid support in science, out there in the field when you’re actually running, the only thing you ever have is your perception. Work on improving your perception by doing the recommended technique drills.

The importance of having a standard is unquestionable. Without a clearly defined standard in running technique there is no overstriding, there is no explanation for or ways to prevent overstriding and all we can do is wonder. Having a standard in running technique allows runners to correct their technical errors, improve their technique and actually attain measurable progress.


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.
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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.


Analysis of Usain Bolt’s Running Technique

After Usain Bolt’s victories with World Records in the Olympic Games in Beijing, and then in the World Championship in Berlin, our desire to understand the reasons and the basis of his phenomenal running is quite natural. Even a quick look of a non-professional is enough to see an obvious difference in running of Usain Bolt and his rivals. Bolt’s running is light, playful, relaxed and at the same time, impressively powerful. Listing of these elements, however, does not help us understand the reasons of such an impact on our feelings.

What is hidden behind the outer, visible picture of running that defines the superiority of this talented sprinter? What does he do better than others, and what parameter of the environment is he using that others don’t?

Let’s do an analysis of Usain Bolt’s running technique. There’s no need to prove that this is not about any one factor, but the system of factors, best seen in my opinion, during the period of support.

Physically with his height of 6’5 Bolt is practically the tallest athlete in the World’s history of sprinting. To some extent, though not directly, from my point of view, it is reflected in the length of his running step. In the final heat on 100m in World Championship in Berlin Bolt made 41 steps with an average length of 2.44m. His closest competitor Tyson Gay (height 5’11’’) made 45.45 steps with the average length of 2.20.

But the influence of the height on the step length would be too simple an explanation for his superiority. Behind the seemingly light and relaxed movement there is a different running technique separating him from his rivals.

To explain this different technique of running, let’s take a look at it from the point of view of the theory of Pose Method, which is based on principally different concepts from those previously accepted ones, the latter based on priority of muscular efforts, directed to active movement of legs pushing the body forward.

In my understanding, the most important factor is that Bolt uses gravity, to be more exact, gravitational torque, as the leading factor that allows him to more effectively involve all other forces, working as a whole and highly effective system for horizontal repositioning of the athlete with high velocity.

Simply speaking, in his running he uses rotation of the body around the point of support under the action of gravitational torque, which in essence is a free falling of the body forward.

Certainly it is happening in a limited frame of space and time during the period of support from the vertical position to the end of support. In reality, indeed, it is about a relatively small angle in space where the falling is happening. By our theoretical calculations these angles range from 0 to 22.5 degrees (starting from the vertical) for running with a relatively even speed.

The key running Pose, favorable for performing falling forward and allowing us to integrate all participating forces into one system moving a runner forward, is the Running Pose at midstance or vertical position, when GCM (general center of mass) is over the point of support.

On frames 1, 10 and 19, with a varying degree of approximation, Bolt is in the running Pose, starting from the vertical and maintains it to the end of support, which can be seen on frames 3 and 11, and also between 19 and 20, where this moment is missing.

Preservation of the Pose during the rotation of the body around the point of support proves that the body is rotating (moving) as a whole system. On the one hand, it allows for better conservation of momentum of the body and, on the other, it allows for the use of gravitational torque for angular acceleration of the body after it passes the vertical position. Indirectly, another proof of the body rotation on support is provided by the knee of the support leg maintained in bent position. On frames 1-4, 10-12, 19-21 it could be seen very well. I.e., he is not “pushing off”, but is “waiting”, “allowing” to gravitational torque to provide the angular acceleration of the GCM.

Therefore, Bolt is more effective in falling forward. Using a special speed table (developed together with professor A. Pianzin), which takes into account individual anthropometrical data of the athlete, his step frequency (cadence), etc., I got an average data of angles of falling of Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay in the final 100m of World Championship in Berlin. Bolt’s calculated average angle in 100m with the time 9.58 seconds was 18.5 degrees with the average step frequency (cadence) 4.28 steps per second (257 steps per minute), and Gay’s, with the time 9.71 seconds – 18.4 degrees, and step frequency (cadence) 4.68 steps per second (281 steps per minute).

Running sequence of Usain Bolt, please disregard the degrees and markers. 

Image courtesy of Russian Track and Field Magazine. 

At the fastest 20m segment of the distance between 60-80m, where Bolt had the highest speed 12.42 m/s with the step frequency (cadence) 4.4 steps per second (264 steps per minute), his angle of falling was reaching 21.4 degrees, the same as Gay’s with the average speed 12.27 m/s and the step frequency 4.8 step per second (288 steps per minute).

All of this makes sense, i.e., speaking in the language of physics; Bolt just more effectively transforms the rotational (angular) velocity of the body into horizontal.

In a simple way this could be presented as a well-known equation of relations between linear and angular velocities in rotational movement of the body: v=ωr, where v- horizontal velocity of GCM, r – radius of rotation of GCM, ω – angular velocity of rotation of GCM. He uses his advantage in height (radius of rotation) and maintains his body in Pose favorable for the action of gravitational torque, relatively longer and better, than other sprinters. Therefore, Bolt’s run builds up on highly effective combined use of factors for moving body forward.

GCM, at the same time, having completed its rotational movement by the end of support, continues moving by oblique trajectory in the air, similarly to that of a stone released from a sling, until the next landing in Pose.

Comparing Bolt’s running with that of his rivals gives us an opportunity to see that his technique essentially differs in details of the Pose and its maintenance until the end of support (which I call a standard), giving him a possibility to use such an external factor as gravity and his natural gift – height to the maximum. On frames 3, 11 and 20 where support practically finishes (ends), the position of the swing foot is close to the knee of the support leg.

It is necessary to mention here, that visually these differences in technique are very small, almost invisible, but is it those differences that create the base for our impression of his movement as light, relaxed and fast.

At the end of the day, it is not important how: consciously or accidentally did Bolt come to this technique, the main thing is that he performs it very well due to his talent. This technique allows him to use his genetic potential, natural gifts to the fullest and to develop his psycho-emotional and mental abilities to the highest level.

Some prognosis about his possible progress. If he manages to increase his average step frequency of running to the level of his rivals, just to something around 4.5 steps per second (270 steps per minute) having the same average angle of falling, his result on 100m could be 9.11 seconds. Isn’t it impressive? But he, so far, is dreaming “only” about 9.4 seconds!


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 ]