Today we have a guest blog from Jeff Moyer, a Strength Coach in Skaneateles, NY. Jeff is an extremely passionate coach, gifted athlete, and a genuine student to anything related to the field of improving athletic performance. In this blog, Jeff addresses the topic of knee drive during running mechanics, and also introduces many of us to Dr. Michael Yessis, a man who has been in this field for many, many years, and who has a greater comprehension of the topic of human movement than anyone I have ever heard of. Enjoy!
Run and tell that!
Google running mechanics and you will find a plethora of video’s and web pages teaching and showing “how to properly run” and various exercises that are supposed to improve technique. If taken at face value, they appear as great exercises that will certainly help you. But when critically and scientifically analyzed, all of those exercises are just a big fart in the wind.
I will be the first to tell anyone that I am NOT an expert by any means. I am just a coach who reads, studies, listens to and corresponds with people who are considered experts throughout the world, that have forgotten more information on physical preparation than I know.
When it comes to teaching proper running biomechanics, NO ONE in this country is more educated on this than Dr. Michael Yessis. Dr. Yessis has a PhD in Kinesiology and was also a University Professor in Biomechanics and Kinesiology. Doc was the first to report on what the Soviets were doing for training back in the 60’s. Dr. Yessis has written and translated many books that you can find on his website www.doctoryessis.com , and I have been fortunate to have a close working correspondence with him. So when it comes to learning about how to properly run, there is no one better in the field.
“Running form” and “form running drills” are mostly modeled. (To imitate someone, NOT trying to be really, really good looking in order to sell something)
Coaches model running techniques based off of something they saw a successful coach or an athlete do.
For example: leaning against the wall with your arms extended, and then picking your knee up and holding it. This is technical drill is supposed to emulate what occurs during the acceleration phase during sprinting trying to replicate body position and knee-drive. Someone had to have watched someone running and saw how high their thigh got during sprinting and created this drill based on what they saw.
In actuality what this drill is doing is teaching the athlete to pick their knees up instead of driving the knees forward. If one was to pick their knees up during running, it would shorten up their stride length and create a vertical force rather than a horizontal force. This technique also implies to the athlete that the hip flexors are used to bring the knee forward from the under the hips. When scientifically according to Dr. Yessis, it is momentum that brings the thigh forward once the thigh passes from under the hips. The forward lean against the wall is often embellished since you don’t run with such a lean. The forward body lean changes based on the athlete’s strength capabilities and they are sprinting increases.
If the athlete has a powerful knee-drive and sufficient flexibility, then what is seen by coaches when viewing an athlete sprinting is an angle between the thighs of about 150-165 degrees, with the knee-drive bringing the thigh close to parallel.
For anyone looking to learn more on how to improve their running mechanics, I would highly recommend that they check out Dr. Yessis website as well as his book Explosive Running. The greatest Olympic coach/athlete of all-time Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk said this about Explosive Running:
“The book by Dr. Michael Yessis appears as an exceptional display in the theory and methods of physical (sports) education in general and more specifically in the sport of track and field. I recommend giving careful consideration to the study of the theoretical and practical aspects of this book. This will allow specialists to rise up to yet a higher level of theoretical and practical knowledge.”