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Other/Mixed Run Form: Energy Leaks, Controlling the Hip, and Taking Advantage of the Spring Effect

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)
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mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
While running, the musculoskeletal system of the body acts like a compressible shock absorber. When your foot makes contact with the ground you compress the shock. When you push off the spring energy of the shock augments muscular force to make you go faster. You spring forward. This spring effect augments muscular force.
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The spring works best when it is stiff and there are no energy leaks. Our body spring works best when almost all of the loading is in the sagittal plane.
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Movement in the coronal plane is not well tolerated by the body and generally results in energy leaks (energy that is not returned as spring energy during push off but is instead wasted). Coronal plane movements are most likely to cause pain and injury. Your body has several mechanisms to control coronal plane movement while running and when these fail, pathological compensations can occur. Horizontal plane movements are normal when running but should not be excessive. The single leg push off creates a rotation moment that results in some horizontal plane movement. This is countered by arm swing and core strength. Less core strength and hip control will necessitate more arm swing, which costs more energy and reduces run economy.
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In the picture above you see a runner loading the 3 major running springs. All of these springs operate primarily in the saggital plane (fore and aft). The ankle, knee, and hip springs are created by loading of the gastroc/soleus, quadriceps, and gluteus muscles respectively.


Next we look at some energy leaks
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
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This is classic run cross over gait with knee valgus. Notice the knee caving in. The hip also moves out laterally and the opposite (non support side hip) drops. Instead of having a rigid spring, there are coronal plane energy leaks (hip out, knee in). Very little of this energy is going to be returned on push off. Also, the hip and knee are not well suited to accept these coronal plane (lateral) forces, so injury potential is high (i.e., IT band syndrome, patellar pain).
upload_2017-6-7_16-53-22.png
In this case there is less knee valgus but note how the hip is kicked out laterally, the opposite (non support side) hip drops, and the foot rotates out laterally. The lateral rotation of the foot (called increased foot progression angle) acts like a kickstand on a bike. A kickstand provides lateral stability to a bike to keep it from falling over. It is doing the same thing here. Normally that stability is provided by the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. If they cannot do the job (due to weakness or weakness in other supporting muscles like the obliques), kickstanding is a common compensation. This can cause arch collapse and strain in the foot and may lead to plantar fasciitis or Achilles injuries. Again, this produces lateral force and wasted spring energy.
upload_2017-6-7_16-54-44.png
In the picture above, instead of loading a rigid spring, the runner is allowing his upper body to slouch. The spine is flexing forward, dissipating the spring energy instead of returning it during push off. This hunched over, head forward run posture is common. It typically causes heel striking, wasted energy, and lower back fatigue/pain.

Next....more examples.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
upload_2017-6-7_16-56-3.png
The two pictures above show cases where sagittal plane movement can be inefficient. In this case, flexing of the spine, resulting in improper alignment, results in energy loss and bad run posture. This generally starts with a head forward run position. By pushing the head forward, the upper torso bends forward, the back arches excessively, and the hips rotate forward into anterior pelvic tilt. Not only does this spine collapse dissipate spring energy that is not returned on push off, but it also increases stress on the lower back and creates a hamstring dominant, rather than a gluteus dominant run form. The hamstrings start to take over the job of the gluteus maximus muscles, often leading to hamstring injuries. The excessive extension (hyperextension) of the lower back often leads to back pain.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
All of these examples are compensations for either deficiencies in mobility (flexibility) or stability (strength) or due to chronic bad posture, which leads to both. When I think of applying strength training to running, I am not thinking about producing stronger muscles in order to get more propulsive force. I am thinking about creating a more stable structure to reduce energy leaks, and providing enough mobility to engage the right muscles and move through the appropriate range of motion.

Fixing run gait is a 2 step process:
1. First you have to gain enough strength in the right places to provide adequate stability and enough flexibility for adequate mobility. This removes the NEED for compensation.
2. Then you have to reprogram the bad movement patterns.

This is why simply trying to emulate good run form (i.e., Pose or Chi Running or any other) often does not work. It skips step #1.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
Great information, thanks a lot Mike!

Now if you don't mind I couldn't avoid coming up with a couple of questions:

First you have to gain enough strength in the right places to provide adequate stability and enough flexibility for adequate mobility. This removes the NEED for compensation.

What are these right places? What are the best movements for training strength in these places? What are the standards of this strength?
 

Al Ciampa

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Good stuff, Mike.

I would humbly add that prior to #1, some have to work on motor control; and this is why so many I have worked with never made headway.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
Good stuff, Mike.

I would humbly add that prior to #1, some have to work on motor control; and this is why so many I have worked with never made headway.

Hi Al. Can you expand that thought a bit. I am interested in your thoughts on this.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
Great information, thanks a lot Mike!

Now if you don't mind I couldn't avoid coming up with a couple of questions:



What are these right places? What are the best movements for training strength in these places? What are the standards of this strength?

It depends on what is needed. I would assess using movement screening and run gait analysis using slow motion video. Most people had the same issues though. For most.....glute and glute medius: mini band walks, lateral plyometric bounding, single leg squats, glute bridges, internal and external oblique: cable column chops, suitcase carries (with no compensations), overall stability: jump rope (you can't have energy leaks or it does not "work"), especially single leg jump rope. Biggest flexibility issue was usually the hip flexors.
 

DavThew

Level 6 Valued Member
overall stability: jump rope (you can't have energy leaks or it does not "work")

I've replaced running with jump rope whilst rehabbing a chronic injury (I have some laughably weak glute medius according to my physiotherapist). Glad to know my choice of cardio wasn't a stupid one.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
I've replaced running with jump rope whilst rehabbing a chronic injury (I have some laughably weak glute medius according to my physiotherapist). Glad to know my choice of cardio wasn't a stupid one.

Lots of runners would benefit from replacing one run with a jump rope session.
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
Most people run as if they've just got out of a chair. Sitting on arse for long time.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
Most people run as if they've just got out of a chair. Sitting on arse for long time.

Yes, no doubt that sitting has a big impact. Simple posture cues can really help, but it takes a while to correct run posture. You have to strengthen the "core" to be able to maintain good posture, and then insert posture cues often enough to start to make good posture more automatic. It takes a lot of diligence to fix but it is worth it. Going from a hunched over, head forward posture to upright instantly reduces heel striking and increases run cadence. The tough part is making it stick.
 

Al Ciampa

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Hi Al. Can you expand that thought a bit. I am interested in your thoughts on this.

Sure Mike... I spent years analyzing gaits and movement for the AF, and when I used the accepted practices for correction, it never seemed to pan out in a positive way across the board. Some improved, but many didn't. Needless to say, I was less than accepting of this, but kept on the keeping on with my ear to the ground.

Here's what I came to realize: the "secret" with improving movement is to clear the white noise away from the movement so the brain can hear the lesson you are trying to teach it, and then learn from it. For many folks who aren't far gone, this can be accomplished with the accepted practices, and we hear about this all the time on this forum. But what about those who don't respond well?

You have to quiet the noise even further. I am putting together a package that is based in stress reduction--a workshop that I am going to modify for gyms and other facilities. But this portion of the seminar will work well for those instructors who have had this same trouble: the student who won't respond well to the accepted corrective practices.

It is based on soma therapy, as written by Hanna and Feldenkrais. Admittedly, there is nothing new here; I simply assimilated it into my programs.

Flexibility? This is based on the ability to relax, so, quiet the SNS and up regulate the PSNS. No amount of stretching will do this.

Stability? The brain has to reorganize muscle firing and tension: again, quiet down the SNS, and lower the white noise. Get on the ground and move slowly and gently in a way that teaches the brain.

Then, you can move to strength; then, you can consider re-teaching the gross movements. Anyway, it has worked well for those who accept the practice. And mind you, many refuse it, if not repulsed by it. We still live in the age of more, heavier, harder, faster...
 

Al Ciampa

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Most people run as if they've just got out of a chair. Sitting on arse for long time.

I don't believe that it is the sitting as much as it is the stress. Sitting is a sufficient condition; stress is the necessary condition.
 

Al Ciampa

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I don't believe that it is the sitting as much as it is the stress. Sitting is a sufficient condition; stress is the necessary condition.

In fact, I'll expand on this by mentioning that sitting is not inherent "bad", but if it changes the way your brain organizes muscle firing/sequencing, well, then, yes. But, it doesn't have to...
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
Feldenkrais Al?
I've used some lessons, only on little old me, with great outcomes. I try for a lesson a day. Wonderful. It's my soft practice with gentle easy barefoot runs as a side. Complements strongfirst perfectly, for me anyway. Good luck with the teaching.
 

mprevost

Level 7 Valued Member
In fact, I'll expand on this by mentioning that sitting is not inherent "bad", but if it changes the way your brain organizes muscle firing/sequencing, well, then, yes. But, it doesn't have to...

Yes, I agree with this.
 
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