The Optimal Biomechanics of Sprinting & Running – part 2

In part 1 we saw how a sprinter lands on the forefoot to optimise the forward momentum and acceleration during the stance phase and suggested that this efficiency can be adapted to distance running. To do this we must look at what occurs prior to the contact phase..

In Fig 1 here we see the foot motion tracked during stance stance and flight and there are 2 clearly different shapes  

On the left the large breaking forces occur because the left lower leg  and foot are moving forward as they contact the ground leading to the knee / hip / pelvis working to absorb the impact  

On the right we see the lower leg initially goes beyond the contact point before coming back towards the contact point.  



The benefits of getting the knee up from the toe off position is that we can engage our glutes!!!!! 

All running magazines and running coaches have repeatedly stressed the need for glute engagement in running. But is it simply a case of lifting the knees during the flight phase,,,,,, well no. 


Lifting our knees is simply going to achieve a position where we can engage our glutes but it doesn’t guarantee engagement  

To correctly get those glutes working we are going to need 2 things  


  1. Increased core and hip flexor strength and stability 
  1. Correct timing of glute engagement  


The ability to put our knee in the right position to allow a better glute engagement is something we all possess but we don’t train it well enough at times.  


We often don’t maintain the correct core strength and the low back gets tight as a result. Some basic plank work may help with that (more on that at a later date) but the ability to maintain our spine and pelvic position during the stance phase along with hip flexor strengthening is a good place to start when aiming for better running control.  

Check this following exercise for a better control of balance – pelvic positioning and hip flexor strength 




Getting a better knee lift is great but we need to ensure a better glute activation during our running 

The glute max or the main glute muscle extends our hip i.e. it pulls our leg from in front of us to behind us. 

HOWEVER in running the glute max only works in this capacity when the leg is off the ground.  

Its main job when the leg is on the ground is to work as part of the larger glute complex (Maximus, Medius and Minimus) and together they only help provide stability of the hip/pelvis to allow the torso to pass over the standing leg.  

The benefit in getting the glute max working more is that if its fired prior to hitting the ground then the stance phase is shorter i.e. we spend less time on the ground which has always been linked to better running mechanics 


Practice Drill

One way that I find helps people to find and use their glute during running is to use the A Run to Repeat Pace

The A Run phase of the drill can be confused with an acceleration phase but the goal is not concentrate on the acceleration but rather the technique of acceleration

When we sprint we generally get our knees higher. we lift / drive them forwards and up and this is particularly obvious in the acceleration phase

Using this in the first 10 -15m while accelerating I get the runner to

  1. concentrate on the knee lift
  2. once this is well executed we focus on ‘pulling’ the heel / foot back and down to the ground before finally
  3. slowing that technique down to their regular running or repeat pace but keeping the knee lift action in the run though not aiming to lift it as high.

As an example workout 4 x 400m session at 80s per 400 would need 15m of A run pre 400 with the clock starting as you pass the start line – not as you start the A Run.

A benefit of this while racing is that when you feel your technique is slipping a little you increase the pace to slow back to running pace as your brain has created a habit to this action.

There are many glute activation exercises but have a go at the basic drill above and see if you can see the benefits of this in your regular running



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