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“I always did drills before a training session and every race for at least 15 minutes. When I was trying to perfect form, improve technique or work on specific weaknesses I also did full drills sessions which took at least an hour, not including my warm up and warm down.”

 

- Dame Kelly Holmes

 

Improving running technique using running drills

 

Running drills are one way of changing and fine tuning running technique and can also be used for warm up or for rehabilitation after an injury. Running action can be broken down into its component parts and built into ‘drills’ which can be used as active warm up exercises designed to make you more efficient at recruiting the nerves and muscles that make you run well and move efficiently. Drills may also help prevent loss of form at the end of a race, potentially enhancing your competition performance by achieving greater efficiency even when tired. They also help to prevent deterioration of technique as athletes get older and get injured. Drills can be used to rehabilitate athletes back from injury and they can form a session in themselves.

 

Why do drills?

 

Reasons to incorporate drills into your training include:

 

  • Improve running style, balance and coordination
  • Injury prevention
  • Neurological - corrects and reinforces correct muscle firing patterns
  • Neurological - speed of contraction
  • Prevent bad habits, maintain balance left and right
  • Postural alignment and control
  • Dynamic core control
  • Mobility
  • Improved efficiency- even when tired
  • Reduces loss of form at end of races

 

Rules

 

  • Posture
  • Aim for perfection
  • Control slow drill before adding speed
  • Keep slow drills in the programme to ensure that the athlete is not cheating and hiding bad habits
  • Specific

 

Below are listed some of the rehabilitation and dynamic drills that you could put into your own programme. Although the rehabilitation drills are commonly used for getting back into training after injury, they can also be done as part of a general drills and strengthening session.

 

Rehab Drills

 

Drill 1: Fast feet roll throughs Maintains ankle mobility, promotes foot and calf muscle strength and function. Prevention and rehabilitation of calf and shin problems, Achilles injuries.

 

  • Bend both knees
  • On alternate feet, roll through each foot from heel to toe, making sure you push through the big toe, before lifting the heel off the floor
  • When bringing the foot through for the next step, ensure the toes are pulled up towards the knee (i.e. ankle at 90º)
  • Make the movement a definite rolling through the ankle joint, feeling the muscles in the calf and foot working
  • Knee should remain bent at all times and the angle should not change. Hips should not go up and down (i.e. remain parallel with the floor from the initial start position). All movement should come from the ankle joint itself
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms

 

Drill 2: High knee walking, front knee bent Promotes and trains postural control, stability and balance. Encourages co-contraction and strengthening of glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. Helps prevent loss of technique.

 

  • Stand on left leg, with the right knee at hip height, thigh parallel with the floor. Right knee is bent, with knee at 90º, ankle at 90º, and toes pulled up towards the knee
  • Go up onto toes on the left leg, holding for one second at the top, straightening the left knee and contracting the glutes
  • Walk through onto right foot and repeat
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms

 

Drill 3: High knee walking, front knee straight Promotes and trains postural control, stability and balance. Encourages co-contraction and strengthening of glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. Helps prevent loss of technique. Encourages active hamstring lengthening whilst engaging postural control and lumbar stability.

 

  • Stand on left leg, with the right knee at hip height, thigh parallel with the floor. Right knee is bent, with knee at 90º, ankle at 90º, and toes pulled up towards the knee
  • Go up onto toes on the left leg, holding for one second at the top, with the left knee straight, contracting the glutes
  • Straighten the right knee, maintaining posture
  • Walk through onto right foot and repeat
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms
  • N.B. If poor flexibility in hamstrings, only have upper knee at a height that you can straighten knee and maintain posture

 

Drill 4: Walking lunges Trains postural control, glutes strength and hip control through range. Encourages co-contraction and strengthening of glutes and hamstrings, whilst lengthening quads and hip flexors. Also encourages rotational control.

 

  • Stand on left leg, with the right knee at hip height, thigh parallel with the floor. Right knee is bent, with knee at 90º, ankle at 90º, and toes pulled up towards the knee
  • Go into lunge, with right leg in front
  • Posture perfect, pelvis level and straight, front knee and foot in line with right hip. Right hip, knee and ankle at 90º. Use glutes of front leg to lift self up onto front leg. Maintain posture and go into start position on other leg, i.e. left knee at hip height, knee bent at 90º, ankle at 90º
  • DO NOT let front knee fall inwards
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms
  • Dynamic Drills

 

Drill 1: Toes up / straight legs fast Encourages ankle mobility and calf strength and power. Also encourages good foot contact with the ground, to enable good push off through feet. Encourages extensor muscle activation.

 

  • Stand up on toes, knees straight
  • On alternate feet, push off through the toes and ankles, driving off the floor, pulling toes towards your shin as you drive off the floor
  • Aim for height off the floor and not distance
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms

 

Drill 2: Glutes / hamstring Promotes hamstring activation and correct movement patterning. Also helps co-ordination and prevents loss of technique. Good for rehabilitation of hamstring injuries and hamstring re-activation after back injury.

 

  • Do single sided initially
  • Keep left (stance) leg straight, up on toes
  • Draw right heel up under buttock, and knee up in front of hip
  • Right thigh and lower leg should be almost horizontal
  • Right ankle at 90º
  • Alternate left leg toes up/straight knee drill with right leg piston hamstring
  • When able to do well, can progress to alternate legs piston hamstrings or two piston hamstrings on right/two on left
  • Perfect posture - Running arms

 

Drill 3: Hop bounds. Encourages postural control and maintenance of technique. Activates extensor pattern of muscle firing, encouraging co-contraction of glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. Good for co-ordination. Adding a hop is good for plyometric strength and control in calves, ankles and feet.

 

  • Step forward on left leg, with the right knee at hip height, thigh parallel with the floor. Right knee is bent, with knee at 90º, ankle at 90º and toes pulled up towards the knee.
  • Drive up so foot leaves the ground, keeping thigh parallel to the ground and maintaining control of the knee by keepingit straight.
  • On landing, change legs by pushing off the ground with the right leg and driving through with left knee parallel to the ground.
  • Perfect posture
  • Running arms
  • Pause for a second before repeating

 

Drill 4: High knees fast Encourages co-ordination and strengthening of glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. Improves technique. Promotes fast twitch fibre reaction.

 

  • Stand tall
  • Lift your left and right knees alternately in fast action, bringing the knee to hip height with the thigh parallel with the floor. Hip and knee should be at 90º
  • Keep foot up and do not point toes downwards, i.e. ankle at 90º
  • Land of the fore foot to minimise time on the ground
  • Move forward slowly but with a fast motion - Perfect posture - Running arms - fast
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