Running Mechanics – Part One


Running is a fundamental locomotor skill. It is a very natural activity. Unfortunately because of our sedentary lifestyle and activity deprived society this natural skill rapidly erodes in accordance with the law of reversibility. As with any skill if is not used it is quickly lost. Generally, young children run naturally with fundamentally sound running mechanics. We need to insure that this natural activity is reinforced through activity and play during childhood, so that in adolescence and latter all that is necessary is to reawaken those childhood movement patterns. If the skill has been lost through disuse it is tough to reacquire.

In running, as in all movement, there are three constants. The first constant is the body. The body works in predictable patterns with all systems working together to produce the desired movement pattern, in this case running. The body has a wisdom that we need to tap into to produce the desired results. The next constant is gravity. It is always there. It is the force that we must overcome to propel the body forward. Essentially gravity is trying to smash the body down into the ground. The body must resist these gravitational forces and then overcome them to propel the body up and forward. The ability to reduce force through shock absorption is very important component of sound running mechanics. The third constant is the Ground. Improving running mechanics is directly dependent on the ability to use ground reaction forces effectively to propel the body. This is the force that reacts to the push transmitted from the foot to the ground. At speeds as slow as the ranges from 3- 6 meters per second, which is essentially a range from a slow jog to a run, the ground reaction forces are 2-3 times bodyweight.

No equipment is necessary to improve running mechanics. Improving running mechanics is about optimizing the relationship between the body, gravity, and the ground. Treadmills, and other exotic apparatus will only interfere with the body’s ability to move naturally.

Running at various speeds is a fundamental ingredient of all sports that take place on land, either as a direct performance factor or as a training activity. Therefore the improvement of running mechanics can have a significant impact on improving sport performance. This impact will obviously vary based on the demands of the particular sport as well as the position within the sport. For example in American football running at high speed is very important for the so-called skilled positions and relatively less important for the linemen. In contrast soccer, played on a bigger field as well as involving continuous activity running is significantly more important for all positions except the goal keeper.

The goals in improving running mechanics are twofold: First, to learn to optimize ground reaction forces (GRF). The point where the foot meets the ground is “Where the rubber meet the road” it is the point of contact is where all the forces are concentrated in a relatively brief period of time. Secondly, to achieve optimal efficiency, which means that less energy is expended for the same amount of effort. Improved mechanics results in a decreased energy cost to do the same amount of work. Improvement in running mechanics should result in improvement in speed as well as a reduction of injuries caused by improper running mechanics. In is my experience as a coach, that correct biomechanics will improve physiological efficiency. In fact, it is a convergence of physiological parameters and biomechanical factors that result in the improved efficiency. The body is a system that means that all parts are working together to produce movement. That is precisely why improving running mechanics will yield a myriad of benefits. Ultimately it is about being as efficient as possible for the distance that you have to run.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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