Examining the Role of High Knee Lift in Sprinting

Posted In: Blog Discussion


  • Participant
    W.E. Price on #118569

    [quote author="Mike Young" date="1353720525"]W.E. Price-
    I agree. After ‘b-skips’ it’s probably the worst performed drill out there.

    …What I do use is a heel recovery drill which is similar to what folks would call high knees but the focus is on a circular heel recovery with dorsiflexion irrespective of how high the knee gets…[/quote]
    Is the focus here more on recovering the heel close to and under the glute with an emphasis on “crossing over the stance leg knee?”

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118573

    Mike, it is not the high knee recovery but rather a heel recovery….the knee position is the chicken after the laid egg. I’m sure you’ve even heard Loren speak and teach thigh pop/acceleration and not high knee recovery.

    How is thigh acceleration different from knee lift / hip flexion? I’m not following your argument at all. Even “stepping over” cues active hip flexion. Different cue same response in my opinion. Are we debating cues or action?

    ELITETRACK Founder

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118574

    Not to be controversial but technically, the “A” skip or running “A” is the only things that remotely resembles a real track movement. I don’t teach B’s…C’s at all as there is no crossover and I find other ways to prep. What I do use is a heel recovery drill which is similar to what folks would call high knees but the focus is on a circular heel recovery with dorsiflexion irrespective of how high the knee gets. This is to prepare for optimal ground force output.

    I don’t think this is controversial at all. There’s actually research that’s looked at the kinematics of the A and B skip and found no significant correlation with Bs and normal sprint mechanics. That said, I think they can still serve a role in teaching posture, warm up, and maybe even getting athletes to feel the outcome (knee extension) or an active stepping down action.

    Just because you bring a hammer over your head to drive a nail in doesn’t mean your going to drive the nail in further. We must look at the speed of the limb or acceleration of the thigh.

    Bring the hammer over my head without a focus on limb speed creates more air time and less force. The notion that elites spend more time in the air is a symptom….what really is happening is they are recovering the heel faster which creates the thigh/limb speed needed to output optimal force. In. Doing this, when you don’t look at the whole but instead the pieces you see a high knee position.

    Food for thought…

    That’s taking the analogy out of context. I very clearly say something to the effect of drawing the hammer back a couple inches….not pulling it over my head. Sure, I could do Kung Fu high kicks and get my knees up by my chest as I bound ridiculously down the track but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that or thinking that will make you faster….just that you need sufficient ROM of the thigh to accelerate the thigh adequately.

    Since you keep coming back to a high heel recovery being the cause of a higher knee recovery, are you suggesting active knee flexion? I see heel recovery as an anatomical consequence of rapid hip flexion following toe-off. EMG studies back this up (knee flexors shut down right after toe off and hip flexors turn on).

    ELITETRACK Founder

    Carl Valle
    Participant
    Carl Valle on #118583

    If anyone can share EMG studies of sprinting as I see nothing on the Psoas because of the need for wire (read sticking needles in your pelvis area) and it would be good to see why and when things are doing what.

    I believe that early activation of the hip flexors and adductors happen earlier with sprinters sort of like pretension of the foot.

    High knee drills don’t guarantee anything but I find them better than isolation exercises. I think drills do something, most likely strengthen and mobilize. As for learning drills do show to get more motor learning from getting body to act as a sponge but I don’t have the papers handy as they were scans of a german study years ago.

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118594

    Carl-
    I’m not aware of an in vivo non-treadmill, in-competition, fine wire needle EMG on the Psoas using sub 10 sprinters (just in case anyone wanted to ask that question to refute my EMG assertions). That said, there’s plenty of surface EMG studies on adductor magnus and rectus femoris. Both of which act as hip flexors (and given the kinematics of swing phase are obviously doing this rather than than adduction or knee extension respectively following toe off) The adductor magnus is likely also counteracting the external rotation of the hip from sartorius and the major TFL. And the work of Nachemson who has used fine wire EMG, suggest psoas would have the same role in running. And since we know muscles rarely act in isolation, I think it’s safe to say if these other hip flexors are lit up, the Psoas likely is too.

    I increasingly use drills the same way you mentioned….strength and mobility but I still require athletes to match a technical model to learn body awareness and my cueing system.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    peterthach28@yahoo.com on #118600

    That somewhat depends on how fast you are but in general, I’d say that other than the elite of the elite males, the energy cost of a high knee recovery outweighs the benefits.

    Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention says something along the lines of an active knee lift being beneficial for half-milers and milers in the 4:20-4:40 range. Pretty cool stuff! A 4:39 1600m just knocks me out of that qualification >.< On the bright side, I've still got that 800.


    Participant
    MBZweifel@dbq.edu on #118698

    Great discussion!

    While we know that greater front side mechanics is associated with higher running speeds, how do we get greater front side mechanics? I always thought that knee lift/drive is a combination of ground forces and active hip flexion. Doesn’t the leg initially “react” back off the ground after foot strike (newtons 3rd law)? And then during mid-swing actively driven up into a good knee lift?

    You can tell your athletes to focus on knee lift/drive during running, but any coach will tell you this usually hinders their speed, alters their mechanics, and leads them to thinking to much during running. For example tell a kid to get a higher knee lift during this next rep, and they’ll usually lean their torso back, lose turnover and stride length, and be consciously thinking about their knee lift while losing other valuable qualities. And if research has shown that running drills don’t transfer over to sprinting then how can we fix poor front side mechanics?

    Do we take a couple steps back and lose speed to have them consciously think about knee drive during sprinting and hopefully accumulate enough practice time that this ingrains in their motor pattern????

    Do we work a ton of strength everywhere and maybe add in extra work on the hip flexors so the knee drive becomes more efficient and natural? I think yes

    From my experience I think greater knee drive is associated with greater ground forces being applied and greater strength. I feel it is very hard to improve front side mechanics through cueing and practice. And with sprinting being a very intense movement, it is hard to get a lot of reps to change the pattern. Now if you have young athletes and who have a lot of time to develop, then I think you can catch them early enough to instill the motor pattern.

    Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the great discussion and content on here!


    Participant
    star61 on #118705

    Great discussion!

    …And if research has shown that running drills don’t transfer over to sprinting…

    Are there any studies that actually show that running drills do not impact sprint technique? I’m not talking about performance, simply direct impact. For example, video analysis of two groups of sprinters, whith only one group including some drill like high knees. Is there no evidence that extended training with the drill actually alters the sprinters mechanics? Again, not talking about performance, just altering the sprint technique.


    Participant
    MBZweifel@dbq.edu on #118706

    Whoops I miss ready from previous posts where it said B-drills were studied to have no correlation to running mechanics, I thought I read both A and B’s.
    But I have not read any studies stating running drills do or do not correlate and carryover to improved running techniques. Have you read anything about the carryover or effectiveness of form running drills?


    Participant
    star61 on #118708

    Whoops I miss ready from previous posts where it said B-drills were studied to have no correlation to running mechanics, I thought I read both A and B’s.
    But I have not read any studies stating running drills do or do not correlate and carryover to improved running techniques. Have you read anything about the carryover or effectiveness of form running drills?

    Not that I can remember off the top of my head. Others may. You would think that not only have running drills been tested for changes in mechanics, but also changes in performance between groups. I would think that some pretty detailed analysis has been done correlating different aspects of both front side and back side mechanics with performance, and how changes in front/back side mechanics has impacted performance, but it is not an area I have looked into much, even though I find it interesting.

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #118712

    There has been at least one peer reviewed published study that looked at the kinematic sequencing of joint actions in common sprint drills (I believe A & B skips + butt kicks) and compared it to the kinematic sequencing of joint actions during sprinting. I’m 90% sure it was published by someone out of the LSU kinesiology department (before I was there). The results indicated no correlation between the drills and sprinting. This doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile though….just that they’re not sprinting. Any time you look at partial movement drills there’s going to be a reduced likelihood that it resembles the full movement. I’ll try to track down the study.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    JeremyRichmond on #118716

    This study might have some information for you. I tried to attach it but it was too big.

    Harrison AJ. Biomechanical factors in sprint training – where science meets coaching.
    XXVIII International Symposium of Biomechanics in Sports, July 2010.


    Participant
    Uros Zivkovic on #118717

    Hey Mike, I have been training with the bear protocol lately and according to them, high knee action in sprinters is a bi-product of high vertical forces during ground contact, isn’t that true?

    Also, if I try and lift my knees higher, will my GC be affected(shorter, longer)?


    Participant
    star61 on #118724

    This study might have some information for you. I tried to attach it but it was too big.

    Harrison AJ. Biomechanical factors in sprint training – where science meets coaching.
    XXVIII International Symposium of Biomechanics in Sports, July 2010.

    Jeremy,

    An interesting study, thanks for sharing. While this type of study is interesting and can teach us a lot, its not the kind of empirical study I like to determine whether or not some training means actually contributes to performance. This type of theoretical study makes huge assumptions based on what ‘seems’ likely or reasonable. The fact is, there are many, many unknowns. A simple study like the following provides more usable information.

    Example Study

    – 50 high school or college sprinters with at least 3 years sprint training, of which very little drill work was performed.

    – Five groups of 10: One control group and four groups performing different combinations, and volumes, of sprint drills. All other training remains the same for all five groups.

    – Testing, for both changes in sprint mechanics and performace, at beginning, middle and end of 12 weeks.

    This is the kind of study that actually tells you if something works. Not why or how, but if. Surely, this kind of study has been done. If not, I find it unbelievable that drills that almost every sprint coach in the nation use as staples have never been shown to be of any benefit.


    Participant
    MBZweifel@dbq.edu on #118734

    So my question is how do each of you feel or go about improving front side mechanics?

    Do we continue to use cueing? Does anybody feel that cueing an athlete improves thier mechanics and makes them faster, and what cues do you like best?

    Does anybody feel that running drills have made a benefit or crossed over on their athletes mechanics. Or are they just more of a warm-up exercise?

    Do we try to increase GRF? Or specific hip flexion strength?

    Or do we just let it be natural to the athlete?

    Very nice study by the way. Need to show that to the Pose followers who think that actively flexing their knee is the most efficient way.

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