Tag Archives: injury free

The Bio-mechanics of Efficient, Injury Free Running

Becoming the efficient running machine that evolution has intended requires a sound strength & flexibility program and a basic understanding of a few simple laws of physics as they relate to the movement of our extremities. Improper running technique often results in injury and always results in an inefficient use of energy stores which is one major reason people “hit the wall” and wind up walking the last several miles of the marathon!

Running Mechanics are governed by some simple laws of physics. Human locomotion is a cyclic repetition of extremity movement performed to transport the body from one place to the other with the least amount of energy expenditure. Evolutionary changes in human anatomy occurring 2 million years ago allowed humans to run long distances in search of food. These changes in body type from ape-like tree dwelling creatures to the way we look today, provided for an efficiency of movement that improved our chances of survival. The arms evolved to be shorter and balance the cyclic movement of the legs better. The larger muscles of the leg migrated upward toward the hip to allow a lighter lower leg to swing through the air with greater ease and less wind resistance. The feet became bigger and provided more surface area of the sole to absorb the shock of the body crashing down on the earth and the lumbar vertebrae became larger to withstand the greater forces generated by a more upright posture.

It is now clear that the ability to travel long distances economically in competition for food is the key trait that forever separated humans from our predecessors and destined us to succeed like no other species to dominate the planet. We were born to run and have many anatomical features and specializations that permit us to run well. However our sedentary lifestyle has robbed our bodies of the strength and flexibility necessary to exploit these built in efficiencies. It takes specific training to regain our potential for efficient and economical long distance running.

ABC’s of Running Mechanics: You will reach your highest genetic potential as a runner only by training your body to be able to attain the proper bio-mechanics. This requires an effective stretching and strengthening program to reestablish proper mechanics and harvest all the built in energy savings therein. It is never too late to improve mechanics and your economy of motion. We focus on these three aspects of bio- mechanics and create a personalized program of strength and flexibility and running technique drills that work together to create smooth and efficient running.

A) Arm Swing: Contrary to what you might think, the upper extremities play a big role in the act of running. The arms move forward when the opposite leg swings forward to minimize trunk rotation and save energy. The arms must swing like a pendulum with all the energy savings built into the pendulum like action of the upper extremity. The elbows should not open and close but remain at a fixed angle.

B) Knee Rise: The degree your knee rises when the swing leg comes to a forward position and before it hits the ground is critical to minimize the braking action that occurs with each foot strike on the ground. Every millimeter in front of your center of gravity that the foot strikes the ground the more this event brakes your forward momentum and wastes energy. The swing leg must not hit the ground moving in a forward direction but instead after reaching peak knee height in the front of the body the lower leg must start to move backward to land as close as possible below your center of gravity to minimize the lost of energy that occurs with each foot strike.

C)   Stride Frequency: The number one cause of injury and energy inefficiency is over striding i.e. foot strike way out in front of your center of gravity. This is also a function of the number of steps you take per minute while running. Stride frequency and stride length are inversely related. The more steps you take, the shorter the stride length of each step and the closer under your body your foot will strike the ground, and thus less energy is wasted on braking your forward momentum. Secondly, the more steps you take per minute, the less time the foot spends on the ground each step. This limits the time the foot has to pronate and prevents the energy lost to over-pronation. Limiting over-pronation also serves to help prevent the myriad of injuries related to this common bio-mechanic condition.

Learn more about the creation of efficient running technique in a free lecture and see how easy it is to incorporate the training strategies that will help you achieve injury free, peak performance.

Join Robert Forster, Physical Therapist to 43 Olympic Track Field Medalists at Fleet Feet Sports (16545 Ventura Blvd., Encino)  Monday November 5th at 7pm. for a talk “Improving Run Technique to go faster and Prevent Injury”.

Call Phase IV at 310.582.8212

Article by Robert Forster, PT, Founder & CEO of Phase IV and Forster Physical Therapy, National Spokesperson, Author, Physical Therapist to 42 Olympic Medalists, NBA and Grand Slam Champions and Member of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.