Learn how to scientifically improve speed and reduce injury.
Interview by: Linzay Logan
Michael Yessis, PhD., has been working with runners for the past 50 years, helping them become better, more efficient athletes. Noticing a lack of available, science-based information in regard to training, Yessis wrote his book “Explosive Running,” which offers instruction on topics from improving speed to how to reducing injury–all from a scientific standpoint. We spoke with Yessis, who believes that he can help anyone run faster, longer and stay injury free, about his book recently. See what he had to say in the interview below.
Michael Yessis: Everyone who is a serious runner and interested in improving his or her ability to run faster, longer and injury free can benefit from “Explosive Running.” The information presented in the book is suitable not only for beginning runners but also for intermediate, advanced and high-level elite runners. All runners can especially benefit from the sequence pictures taken from live digital film to analyze and better understand what takes place during a running stride and how they can improve their running.
Why did you write “Explosive Running?”
I wrote “Explosive Running” because I saw a need for more scientifically based information in the running field. It appeared to me that improvement in running (better times, more effective running technique, more effective training methods, etc.) had plateaued and the main focus was now on volume as opposed to quality. In other words, runners are doing more and more running without regard to how they run or how their running can be improved with other methods. This is related mainly to the motor and technical factors, not aerobic and anaerobic development, even though they are interrelated. In my opinion, present day training methods are leading to more injuries and runner dropouts rather than more effective running. However, with more quality in running training rather than volume all runners could be better. Thus my book was written not only to help explain and improve what is involved in the running stride, but also how runners can enhance their running by actually doing less running.
What kind of message do you offer runners looking to run faster, longer and more efficiently?
It is not so much a message as it is the means and methods of improving running technique and the physical qualities that relate specifically to running technique. These two elements are the essence of effective running. For example, making running technique more effective will improve running speed, help prevent injury and allow the runner to run longer. Improvement of the physical qualities specific to the runner’s technique enhances all of the outcomes noted above. For complete development I also include elements of stretching, nutrition, how to identify and correct specific running errors and how to set up an effective training program.
Is there one topic you discuss that runners need to pay particular attention to and can benefit the most from?
There are multiple answers to this question but probably the most important one is running technique or what most runners call running form. I have found that this is typically an area that requires the most need for improvement. Running technique is probably the most ignored aspect of running not only by coaches, but also by running in the media. But yet, it is the most significant aspect of running. It is the fundamental base upon which all runners should build their running training.
Furthermore, an effective analysis of running technique dictates what the training program should be. The analysis can indicate which strength exercises are needed to make effective changes in technique or to enhance specific aspects of technique. These changes enable the runner to run longer, faster and pain or injury-free. It is necessary to understand that simply increasing mileage as most runners are told to do, invariably leads to injury or excessive fatigue.
In relation to paying particular attention to particular topics, it should be noted that some runners may get more benefit from specific active stretches or from the nutritional information in “Explosive Running,” especially as it relates to running performance. Some runners benefit most from the specific specialized strength exercises that they can do to improve their running form (technique).
The specialized exercises that I created and are presented in this book are unique and for the most part, have never been seen before. These strength exercises duplicate what occurs in the running stride. In other words, the strength gained from doing these exercises duplicates the neuromuscular pathway seen in execution of the specific joint actions that occur in all beginning and intermediate runners in the running stride. (Elite runners typically include an additional joint action, which distinguishes and makes their run even faster and more efficient). In addition, the strength is gained in the same range of motion as it is displayed in the running stride and the type of muscular contraction is the same as that seen in execution of the running stride.
What do you think many runners are missing in the training that they can read about in “Explosive Running?”
There are several answers to this question. First and foremost are the descriptions and analyses of running form or technique, as I prefer to call it. To my knowledge this is the only book that has cinematograms of elite and average runners running at different speeds. The pictures were taken directly from organic digital video film recorded with a high-speed digital camera. In addition to describing what each runner did in his or her running stride, biomechanical and kinesiological analyses were done of each runner and as a composite of what constitutes effective running.
By reading the information, which is presented in a simple, easy to understand, non-technical manner, the reader can gain a complete understanding of exactly what occurs in each joint action and why it occurs to produce an efficient and effective run. With this understanding the reader is better able to understand what should be done to make his or her running not only more effective but more enjoyable.
In addition, the book brings out the role of strength training, especially specialized strength training, and how it enables the runner to run less but be more productive in terms of running further, faster or injury-free. Usually this is accomplished with the addition of only a few exercises that are specific to the runner’s needs. This is a new concept that has proven itself many times over. The exercises are easy to do and can be mastered by all runners.
I also believe runners are missing the most important elements of stretching prior to, during, or after their run. By distinguishing and demonstrating key active stretches that are specific to running, the reader can get a better grasp of what type of stretching should be done, why it should be done and how it should be done. This is another unique aspect of the book.