Why Strength Work Isn’t Enough

Lifting weights is just one part of the equation when it comes to improving running form. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

How To Unlock Your Inhibitions

As mentioned, most runners address the strength issue, which is very important and cannot be ignored, but neglect the neural recruitment and inhibition aspect.

I believe addressing and eliminating muscular inhibitions is a process that should progress from conscious incompetence (understanding the basics of running mechanics and taking steps to improve through strength, stretching and drills); to conscious competence (running with a better awareness of what you are doing and using cues to remind yourself during a run); and finally unconscious competence (having eliminated the inhibitions and not needing to think about running with the correct form since it happens naturally).

To advance on this journey from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence, it’s critical to add the right exercises in a progressive manner to help train your body and nervous system to coordinate contraction and relaxation and eliminate any structural limitations.

Stretching

I think the first step to improving form is eliminating any limitations to the proper movement and firing of the muscle groups.

A full range of motion will help you take full advantage of the stretch reflex and ensure you have the flexibility to execute the proper movement patterns. For example, if you can eliminate tightness in the hip flexors and develop a greater range of motion, your body will be able to fire the glute as intended and not have to bypass in favor of other muscle groups.

So, you should start by adding some active stretching (AIS) before or after your runs.

RELATED: Dynamic Stretching Vs. Static Stretching

Drills

The next step is adding in running-specific drills designed to mimic the specific characteristics of technically sound running form in short, compartmentalized sections.

By breaking form down into isolated, specific sections using drills, you’re able to focus on one element at a time (i.e. your hip extension) without confusing yourself with everything else going on in the kinetic chain (i.e. your arm swing).

Moreover, drills help to develop the important proprioceptive awareness needed to make the shift from conscious incompetence to conscious competence.

You can start by adding some basic running drills, like the a-skip, b-skip after your runs two to three times per week.

Mental Cues

The final step is implementing mental cues during specific parts of your run or while performing strides (or other running-like activity).

With range of motion no longer an issue thanks to your stretching work and the drills developing and reinforcing the proper neural firing patterns, mental cues aid in slowly moving the changes in your form from isolated elements to the running gait itself.

One of the simplest and most effective mental cues is to count your cadence. If you have a cadence of less than 165 steps per minute, work to increase this number by five percent until you’re comfortable at the new number.

Over time, you’ll need to implement fewer mental cues as they become more ingrained and part of your unconscious running mechanics.

Get our best running content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE Competitor Running weekly newsletter

Top Stories

Videos

Photos