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Increase your speed: Form Drills for Faster Running

November 15, 2019

Increase your speed: Form Drills for Faster Running

The next time you attend a road race, take a good look at the starting area.  You will likely observe athletes performing walking, skipping, and running drills – some of which may look a little silly.  Why athletes skipping and jumping minutes before the start of the race?  There are numerous benefits of completing form drills, which will be discussed here. 

What are Form Drills?
Form drills are exercises that mimic proper running form by focusing on small factors, such as dorsiflexion, knee drive, and hamstring activation.  These exercises are performed repetitively in order to improve muscle memory. 

What are the Benefits of Form Drills?
There are numerous benefits of form drills, with the most important being improvement in running form.  Just like everything else in life, running form can be enhanced with enough practice.  Form drills also help build the functional strength required to hold various positions, such as a flexed foot or highly driven knee.  In addition, form drills help to engage muscles that commonly misfire in runners, such as glutes and hamstrings.  Finally, form drills can improve cadence because they teach the body to be light and quick on one’s feet. 

When Should Form Drills be Performed?
Since form drills are not high-impact, they can be performed daily, for 5 – 10 minutes each session.  If you are developing a drill routine, it is best to start with drills once per week and gradually increase frequency.  After a run, find a flat, even surface and perform each drill twice, traveling approximately 30 m each time.  As you become more comfortable with drills, incorporate them into workout and race days by doing an abbreviated drill session after your warm up.

What is a Good Form Drill Routine?
A great resource for the typical form drills that are performed is the following video,(video here) demonstrated by Olympian Meb Keflezighi. 

Leg Swings
Before getting started, begin with leg swings which will loosen the muscles in your glutes, hips, and hamstrings.  Stand facing an object, such as a tree or fence, and swing each leg back and forth to the right and left 10 – 15 times.  Next, stand with your right hip next to the object, and hold on for support.  Swing your right leg forward and back 10 – 15 times before repeating with your left leg. 

The first drill demonstrated in the video is A-Skip.  Important factors to remember include keeping your foot flexed, with your toes towards the sky.  Your arms should swing freely, and your knees should drive upwards.  Be careful not to bend at the waist during this exercise.

For B-skip, also demonstrated by Meb, you will draw on the motion of A-Skip but activate your hamstring to extend your leg outwards before bring your foot to the ground.  Again, it is important to focus on good knee drive, a flexed foot, proper arm swing, and good posture.

Finally, Meb demonstrates C-skip.  Here, you will repeat the A-Skip motion, except you will drive your knees at a 45o angle from your body.  This movement will improve flexibility and enhance strength for injury protection. 


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