If your here, you probably want to know how to increase your running speed. And precisely how manipulating your natural stride can influence said speed.
Well, your at the right place, you won’t be disappointed.
Speaking from a sports biomechanics background, testing and analysis will help you to achieve your speed goal as quickly and safely as possible. However, one thing you should always keep in mind that everybody is different. There is no one fits all approach to running – simply take what you can and what resonates with you from this article, and run with it (no pun intended). Your strengths and weaknesses are nothing to compare to anyone else, so don’t even bother comparing to your friends.
Anyway a biomechanical assessment will take your individual running form and develop you to YOUR best. In this article, (teamed with biomechanics) we will focus on two important strategies; increasing stride frequency or stride length to achieve high speed. Why? Because of this simple equation:
The stride length is measured as the distance between your initial touch down of your toe until the same foot touches the ground again. Worthy note step length is half of the stride length. So try not to confuse these terms, or you may have yourself some questionable data! Understanding of these terms can help break down the running speed equation the longer the stride, higher the speed.
It’s not as simple as just taking larger bounds, because stride length comprises of anthropometric factors too (leg length, size of your feet, for example). In addition, earlier studies coincided with race results confirm that in most cases, stride length varies amongst fast and slow runners. If you have longer stride length, then you will be needing less oxygen to sustain running pace (you will be able to sustain faster speeds and get less fatigued as a result). So really, having good stride length gives you both speed and efficiency.
How to improve stride length?
Biomechanically, explosive power of an athlete is the major factor that optimizes your stride length. A previous study here, describes how bigger muscle groups like glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps are crucial for development of explosives in athletes and how to develop them. The body also needs to be efficiently utilising elastic energy stored in tendons by using the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) is yet another additional contributor for good propulsion. You can read about that in depth here.
Secondly, knee drive is crucial during running for maintenance of a strong stride length. Knee drive happens on the leading leg that is in the swing phase. Driving your knee forward is basically a reflex action and is powered by your strong quadriceps and good hip mobility. Without which can put you at high risk for a decline in speed and overall performance. Let’s not focus on the negative, and just be sure to follow an approved biomechanical strength programme for knee drive. It’s imperative to generate enough power for optimum stride lengths.
Flexibility is often discussed in running forums. Too much range of movement (ROM) around a joint can lead to instability and loss of that elastic properties of the SSC. Yet, a lack in flexibility leads to muscle shortness, tension and imbalance. Hello sports injury. So balance is really key here.
To keep the balance, a dynamic warm up is recommended before any high impact stride development workout. Dynamic warm up includes movement-based stretches that improves blood flow to muscles to increase natural elasticity and flexibility.
Proper technique for longer stride
Okay, okay We said there is no ‘one size fits all’ running technique or form. However minor alterations can help to establish biomechanically efficient movement patterns which can only help with your strides. There are a few key points to try on for size and develop such asm
- Forefoot strike (Want further information? Click here)
- Solid flexion movement and strength at all three joints (hips, knees and ankles)
- Arms held a 90 degree angle with relaxed wrists
The plyometric workouts improve your stretch shortening cycle (SSC) spring-like ability. It is essential for making your running movement economical as it allows you to store elastic energy in your tendons for enhancing propulsion performance during running. Also, plyometric workouts train and target fast twitch muscle fibers for power generation. Specifically, plyometric for running incudes high intensity low volume exercise focusing on shorter ground contact times for better speed.
Now can you recall that speed equation? Running speed = Stride length X Cadence (remember now?) It is the number of strides per minute or stride frequency. Deciding to focus and improve on stride frequency will enhance your running speed too, look at how you can do exactly that…
Cadence (stride frequency)
First of all let’s look into why a higher cadence is important. The improvement of your stride frequency is an alternative option to manipulate your run speed. In fact, it is believed to be more trainable choice for enhancing performance.
The known problem with a slower cadence is your foot position. During the stride, it will land ahead of you, leading to over stretching of muscles to catch up and eccentrically contract to control. It’s extra stress the muscles could do without. So in actual fact, slower stride rates make the overall running less effective and more hard work for the hamstrings in particular.
Did you know that slower stride rates with longer strides often raise the risk of injuries? You see, as you spend more time in the air, ultimately landing harder with each step. Your poor legs will be beaten up by the high ground reaction force impact that truly hamper your running.
How to improve stride Frequency?
- sprint resistance (including gravity-assisted running, for e.g., downhill sprinting on a shallow 3-7°slope)
- high-speed towing (e.g., harness and stretch cord)
- Of course there is overall strength training workouts wil improve your functional efficiency
- Plyometrics and agility drills aid this also like Quick feet in the agility ladders, High knees, fast arms drills, A skip, use of mini hurdles and striders.
Now you know the formula for speedy running, what are you going to do with it? What will you encorporate in your own training? How has it impacted your performance?