The Deeper Core: Triathlete’s Performance Center

Send to Kindle
Triathlon is a cadenced endurance sport requiring hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of movement repetitions in the extremities and torso. As you train, you experience ongoing stages of movement, adaptation, and skill learning as you progress toward advances in technique and fitness. Constant interplay occurs in the intricate and interrelated processing of movement, including cognitive skills (understanding what needs to be done), motor skills (executing the skills), functional movement (moving in full ranges of motion), and functional and stable performance (maintaining body posture through the core).Stability of the core is crucial to optimal performance. Movements begin deep inside your core and are transferred to your extremities. Your core controls not only your spine to maintain alignment but also movements relative to your spine. A stable core enhances skill and efficiency and can limit recurring injury by reducing stress caused by movements working against each other.

Your core is your body’s stabilization system. Every aspect of motor learning and skill development is enhanced by a stable core, including postural control, functional movement, limb coordination, muscle exertion to produce tension and force, and neuromuscular control.

Performance stability is your body’s ability to maintain an even, balanced, and graceful posture during all movements. The best triathletes demonstrate precise and stable movement fully observable by the most untrained eyes. Your muscles must be stable and specifically trained to move efficiently. Functional movements connect to muscular stability and, when optimal, allow muscles to work in accordance with their structure and ability. Stability must be present on both sides of the body to provide a base for equal and balanced movements.

Stability increases your capacity for potential energy and the storage of elastic energy to further optimize movement. For example, while swimming, you load and unload with changing forces during the catch, insweep, and outsweep. In cycling, the pedaling and loading of muscles and corresponding structural stability are necessary when your hip extends during the downstroke. During the run, your muscles play a critical support role during the stance phase, without which stability would be impossible.

For many triathletes, the control and coordination of movements at some point become more accurate, more controlled, and even automatic. Others struggle with developing efficient movement patterns and have difficulty refining, adapting, and putting into practice the movements that are most efficient. In such cases, there’s often an underlying instability in which muscles are weak or underactive, preventing normal motion and contributing to inflexibility in muscles and joints, which are very often exposed in competition as fatigue increases. The stronger your deeper-layered core, the more stable and effective technique can be. In this chapter we’ll focus on assessing, strengthening, and training your core in ways that work the deepest stabilizers and postural muscles.

The Deeper Core: Triathlete’s Performance Center

Think of your core as the epicenter of your body. It is a collection of muscles that support your spine, back, hips, and pelvis. Functional triathletes are especially stable from the deepest muscles of the core – the primary and secondary stabilizers. These deep core muscles are at the axis of motion, attach to the bony segments of the spine and joints, control positioning of and provide stability and are made up of slow-twitch (type 1) muscle fibers for muscular endurance that fatigue slowly. They function at low loads and do not produce much, if any, force or torque for movement in swimming, cycling, or running, yet they play a vital role in controlling the positions of your joints. For the best transfer of load, your joints must be in optimal position for generating the highest amount of efficient energy for movement. Your deep core functions to hold your joints in neutral positions by responding with just the right amount of force during changes to posture caused by outside forces such as foot strikes while running, water pressure while swimming, and pedaling forces while cycling.See table 5.1 for a list of the core stabilizer and mobilizer muscles and table 5.2 for their characteristics.

Every level of triathlete can benefit from assessing functional capacity of the core and learning how to move from within the center points of the body to the outside limbs most effectively. Talented triathletes of all ages tend to demonstrate balanced and symmetrical movements with sureness. These efficient motions are accomplished through years of training and further enhanced by training the deep-layered muscles of the core. But training these deep-core muscles – chiefly, the transversus abdominis, multifidi, and quadratus lumborum – is far different from common high-intensity core exercise training. These muscles are not trained through intense workouts but through controlled deep-layered techniques and body-region-specific exercises.

The most efficient athletic movements are those that originate from the center of the body. As a triathlete develops more efficient skills, energy expenditure is minimized as movements consolidate. Early on, however, if limitations in flexibility, mobility, and stability are ignored, movements can remain error prone, sometimes stiff and halting, and there can be an unnecessary and inefficient use of the extremities. Asymmetrical motions can produce compensations not only in functional movements but within the stabilizing muscles of the core.

A fitting expression among physical therapists and movement practitioners is that proximal stability enhances distal mobility. The core (stability center) provides the most effective way to transmit energy to the limbs (from inside to outside). For example, instead of pulling, the capable swimmer will anchor the hand and arm (slowly) and engage and transfer power from the centerline (spine, pelvis, and hips) through the hand and arm holding (sculling) against dense water. An efficient cyclist similarly works from inside to out by maintaining a level pelvis, straight spine, and limited swinging or tilting in the upper body. The triathlete runner above all depends on core stability and posture and position of the upper back and scapulae to provide ample support of the body during the exchange of foot strikes.

This excerpt is from the book, Triathletes in Motion. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please purchase this book from Human Kinetics.

The Body’s Fuel Sources

Send to Kindle

Our ability to run, bicycle, ski, swim, and row hinges on the capacity of the body to extract energy from ingested food. As potential fuel sources, the carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the foods that you eat follow different metabolic paths in the body, but they all ultimately yield water, carbon dioxide, and a chemical energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Think of ATP molecules as high-energy compounds or batteries that store energy. Anytime you need energy—to breathe, to tie your shoes, or to cycle 100 miles (160 km)—your body uses ATP molecules. ATP, in fact, is the only molecule able to provide energy to muscle fibers to power muscle contractions. Creatine phosphate (CP), like ATP, is also stored in small amounts within cells. It’s another high-energy compound that can be rapidly mobilized to help fuel short, explosive efforts. To sustain physical activity, however, cells must constantly replenish both CP and ATP.

Our daily food choices resupply the potential energy, or fuel, that the body requires to continue to function normally. This energy takes three forms: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. (See table 2.1, Estimated Energy Stores in Humans.) The body can store some of these fuels in a form that offers muscles an immediate source of energy. Carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, for example, are readily broken down into glucose, the body’s principal energy source. Glucose can be used immediately as fuel, or can be sent to the liver and muscles and stored as glycogen. During exercise, muscle glycogen is converted back into glucose, which only the muscle fibers can use as fuel. The liver converts its glycogen back into glucose, too; however, it’s released directly into the bloodstream to maintain your blood sugar (blood glucose) level. During exercise, your muscles pick up some of this glucose and use it in addition to their own private glycogen stores. Blood glucose also serves as the most significant source of energy for the brain, both at rest and during exercise. The body constantly uses and replenishes its glycogen stores. The carbohydrate content of your diet and the type and amount of training that you undertake influence the size of your glycogen stores.

The capacity of your body to store muscle and liver glycogen, however, is limited to approximately 1,800 to 2,000 calories worth of energy, or enough fuel for 90 to 120 minutes of continuous, vigorous activity. If you’ve ever hit the wall while exercising, you know what muscle glycogen depletion feels like. As we exercise, our muscle glycogen reserves continually decease, and blood glucose plays an increasingly greater role in meeting the body’s energy demands. To keep up with this greatly elevated demand for glucose, liver glycogen stores become rapidly depleted. When the liver is out of glycogen, you’ll “bonk” as your blood glucose level dips too low, and the resulting hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) will further slow you down. Foods that you eat or drink during exercise that supply carbohydrate can help delay the depletion of muscle glycogen and prevent hypoglycemia.

Fat is the body’s most concentrated source of energy, providing more than twice as much potential energy as carbohydrate or protein (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories each per gram). During exercise, stored fat in the body (in the form of triglycerides in adipose or fat tissue) is broken down into fatty acids. These fatty acids are transported through the blood to muscles for fuel. This process occurs relatively slowly as compared with the mobilization of carbohydrate for fuel. Fat is also stored within muscle fibers, where it can be more easily accessed during exercise. Unlike your glycogen stores, which are limited, body fat is a virtually unlimited source of energy for athletes. Even those who are lean and mean have enough fat stored in muscle fibers and fat cells to supply up to 100,000 calories—enough for over 100 hours of marathon running!

Fat is a more efficient fuel per unit of weight than carbohydrate. Carbohydrate must be stored along with water. Our weight would double if we stored the same amount of energy as glycogen (plus the water that glycogen holds) that we store as body fat. Most of us have sufficient energy stores of fat (adipose tissue or body fat), plus the body readily converts and stores excess calories from any source (fat, carbohydrate, or protein) as body fat. In order for fat to fuel exercise, however, sufficient oxygen must be simultaneously consumed. The second part of this chapter briefly explains how pace or intensity, as well as the length of time that you exercise, affects the body’s ability to use fat as fuel.

As for protein, our bodies don’t maintain official reserves for use as fuel. Rather, protein is used to build, maintain, and repair body tissues, as well as to synthesize important enzymes and hormones. Under ordinary circumstances, protein meets only 5 percent of the body’s energy needs. In some situations, however, such as when we eat too few calories daily or not enough carbohydrate, as well as during latter stages of endurance exercise, when glycogen reserves are depleted, skeletal muscle is broken down and used as fuel. This sacrifice is necessary to access certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that can be converted into glucose. Remember, your brain also needs a constant, steady supply of glucose to function optimally.

Fuel Metabolism and Endurance Exercise

Carbohydrate, protein, and fat each play distinct roles in fueling exercise.


  • Provides a highly efficient source of fuel—Because the body requires less oxygen to burn carbohydrate as compared to protein or fat, carbohydrate is considered the body’s most efficient fuel source. Carbohydrate is increasingly vital during high-intensity exercise when the body cannot process enough oxygen to meet its needs.
  • Keeps the brain and nervous system functioning—When blood glucose runs low, you become irritable, disoriented, and lethargic, and you may be incapable of concentrating or performing even simple tasks.
  • Aids the metabolism of fat—To burn fat effectively, your body must break down a certain amount of carbohydrate. Because carbohydrate stores are limited compared to the body’s fat reserves, consuming a diet inadequate in carbohydrate essentially limits fat metabolism.
  • Preserves lean protein (muscle) mass—Consuming adequate carbohydrate spares the body from using protein (from muscles, internal organs, or one’s diet) as an energy source. Dietary protein is much better utilized to build, maintain, and repair body tissues, as well as to synthesize hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters.


  • Provides a concentrated source of energy—Fat provides more than twice the potential energy that protein and carbohydrate do (9 calories per gram of fat versus 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein).
  • Helps fuel low- to moderate-intensity activity—At rest and during exercise performed at or below 65 percent of aerobic capacity, fat contributes 50 percent or more of the fuel that muscles need.
  • Aids endurance by sparing glycogen reserves—Generally, as the duration or time spent exercising increases, intensity decreases (and more oxygen is available to cells), and fat is the more important fuel source. Stored carbohydrate (muscle and liver glycogen) are subsequently used at a slower rate, thereby delaying the onset of fatigue and prolonging the activity.


  • Provides energy in late stages of prolonged exercise—When muscle glycogen stores fall, as commonly occurs in the latter stages of endurance activities, the body breaks down amino acids found in skeletal muscle protein into glucose to supply up to 15 percent of the energy needed.
  • Provides energy when daily diet is inadequate in total calories or carbohydrate—In this situation, the body is forced to rely on protein to meet its energy needs, leading to the breakdown of lean muscle mass.

This excerpt is from the book, Endurance Sports Nutrition-3rd Edition. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please purchase this book from Human Kinetics.

Using yoga to prevent injury

Send to Kindle

Runners love to run, and to have longevity in the sport, they would be wise to develop a smart plan to mitigate the risk of injury. Taking care of the controllable factors is a good place to start—that is, finding and following a running program suited to your personal running history. Starting with a plan is especially important when you are new to running, as is having the advice and guidance of a supportive running coach or experienced running friend. If you don’t have a coach or a friend to advise you, a myriad of training programs and methods are available through books and the Internet.

Next, buy a good pair of running shoes from a knowledgeable salesperson at a runners’ shop. Unlike when purchasing general use shoes, which are suitable if they simply feel comfortable, many factors should be taken into account when purchasing running shoes, such as pronation, supination, arch type, and style of running. A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to evaluate your needs and recommend an appropriate shoe. Not only does this ensure that your money is well spent, but it is also key to injury prevention and comfort.

So now you have a plan, have purchased a suitable pair of running shoes, and are all set to start your program. But have you considered incorporating a way to reduce the risk of injury into this program? Knowing that many risk factors are associated with the physical stress of running and muscle imbalances, you need to counter these risks. Runners are generally eager to get on the road and deal with injuries only when they occur. A safer and smarter strategy, and one that is more likely to help you meet your overall fitness goals, is to integrate injury prevention into your program at the outset.

Yoga is a perfect complement to running, and integrating a yoga practice into your weekly fitness plan is an excellent way to safeguard against injuries. In addition to eliminating those nagging aches and pains that like to settle into the body, yoga can prevent and heal injuries.

Yoga immediately reveals and addresses the muscle imbalances that often lead to injury. By its very nature, yoga helps restore the body to balance and symmetry. Runners who take part in yoga are often surprised to discover the differences in strength and flexibility between their right and left sides. Likewise, many make the unexpected discovery that they have a weak upper body and core and learn that this can contribute to injury. But often most astonishing is the discovery that their legs may be strong for running but not overall, because they have not developed strength in all muscle groups.

Take a simple lunge, for example. It is not uncommon for runners new to yoga to be very unstable and shaky in this pose, doing all they can to stay upright and not fall over, rather than being grounded through the feet, stable in the legs, and strong through the torso with straight arms extended overhead and breathing deeply and calmly. The position of the legs in a basic high lunge may seem very similar to a running stride, but a running stride involves movement; the lunge is static, meaning that you can’t escape the work. During a lunge all the muscles in the legs, as well as the ankles and feet, are either contracting or stretching.

When executed with correct alignment and attention to detail, the high lunge holds many benefits for runners:

Bent Front Leg

  • Strengthens the hamstrings
  • Strengthens the ankle
  • Strengthens the gluteus medius
  • Strengthens muscles of the front shin
  • Strengthens the inner quadriceps
  • Stretches the outer quadriceps

Straight Back Leg

  • Stretches the sole of the foot
  • Stretches the ankle joint
  • Stretches the Achilles tendon
  • Stretches the calf
  • Stretches the hip flexors


  • Lengthens the spine
  • Strengthens the abdominals
  • Strengthens the muscles of the upper back
  • Stretches the shoulder muscles
  • Improves the range of motion of the shoulder joint


  • Improves balance
  • Improves focus and concentration

Lunges can be very challenging for runners at the beginning. However, the balance of strength and flexibility they develop reduces the risk of a number of injuries. Additionally, as runners improve in their performance of the lunge, their running strides lengthen, they move with greater ease, and their athletic performance improves. Finally, remaining in the pose for a period of time requires the focus of mind and will, as does successfully crossing the finish line at a race. And these are the benefits from merely one pose! Compound this effect with the number of yoga poses done in a full yoga practice, and the results are truly astounding.

A yoga practice, especially one designed to meet the specific needs of runners, reduces the risk of injury. A yoga practice that focuses on proper alignment with a balanced blend of stretching and strengthening is ideal. Furthermore, practiced mindfully with appropriate attention to detail and accompanied by deep diaphragmatic breathing, yoga offers tremendous mind–body benefits.

Whether you have been running for years or planning your very first run, integrating yoga will benefit you. It is never too late to start a yoga practice, and there is no such thing as being too stiff for yoga. Many runners turn to yoga when they have had an injury and use it as a way to recover. When the symptoms subside, they consider themselves cured and return to their previous routines, but often the injury returns and then they return to yoga.

Rather than using yoga on an irregular, as-needed basis, integrate it into your program on an ongoing basis by making time for it in your weekly workout. Think of it as putting money in the bank for that rainy day, and perhaps you will help to ensure that the rainy day will never come. Approached in this manner, yoga will keep your body strong and balanced for running and for the physical demands of everyday life. Moreover, like interest in your bank account, the benefits of yoga compound over time. Even after only a few weeks of regular practice, many students feel stronger and more limber and are able to bring increased body awareness to their running. Additionally, it is not uncommon for runners who have started a yoga practice to run faster, set new personal bests, and then wonder whether yoga had something to do with it.

Nicola’s Story
I had run three marathons, including Iron Man and Boston, and was training for my fourth. It was a fund-raiser taking place in Ireland, where I am from, so many friends and family were planning to cheer me on. I was running 60 miles (97 km) per week and feeling good, except for some nagging hip and lower-back discomfort that I thought, or hoped, would go away with physio treatments. However, the pain got worse, becoming so intense that running was out of the question. I was in a state of depression seeing this goal vanish.
A friend suggested yoga, and luckily I found Yoga for Runners. I was completely new to yoga and surprised at how stiff I was. I thought yoga was OK, and at least it gave me something physical to focus on while not running. I did five yoga classes per week for two weeks with no running. I was feeling better and did a few short runs. About five weeks prior to the marathon, I started some longer runs, but throughout kept doing yoga a few times a week. The pain was virtually gone, but I was fearful it would return if I pushed it. Compared to my previous training, I felt undertrained, but decided I would try to run the race anyway and not care about time. At the beginning of the race, I felt very relaxed. To my astonishment, I had a very strong finish and ran a personal best time of 3:08.

My pain was in the lower back, hip, and sciatica. Reflecting on my experience, I know the injury was a result of years of training hard and doing no stretching to speak of. Yoga completely loosened my hamstrings, which then loosened my hips and lower back. My upper body felt stronger as well. My stride completely came back, and my whole body felt much less stressed. I felt great overall, body and mind. Yoga saved me, and I will always make time for it in my training.

This excerpt is from the book, Yoga for Runners. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Purchase this book from Human Kinetics and help keep in online.

Use training zones to achieve your best workout

Send to Kindle

Training Zones

Training zones are used to quantify and track intensity. Remember that workload is the product of volume (duration and frequency) and intensity. The volume component of your workload is easily tracked; all you need is a watch and a calendar. Intensity, however, is a whole different ball game. This is the toughest part of your training to get right.

As mentioned previously, every time you train you should have a goal for the workout. To reach that goal, you’ll need to be aware of how hard you’re riding (i.e., your intensity).

The purpose of a good training program is to work different aspects of your physiology. You’ll be training your aerobic and anaerobic systems, your strength, and your mental fortitude. Some workouts may be for base training, building up the vascular machinery that will allow you to go hard later on. Other workouts may focus on training your maximal speed, allowing you to blow past a friend as you race for a city limit sign.

Each training zone represents a different level of effort, ranging from easy to hard. An overwhelming amount of information is available on training zones. Different coaches and books use different nomenclature, and this can make it confusing. This book is designed to give you a solid foundation in the world of training; the goal is to simplify things so that you’ll have a good understanding that’s adaptable to whatever terminology you encounter along the way. Continue reading

Racing tactics: warm-ups, pacing, and transitions

Send to Kindle

Racing Tactics

The tactics a triathlete should use for race day are directly related to that triathlete’s fitness level and experience in the sport of triathlon. Triathletes doing their first race who have low levels of fitness should focus on comfortable completion of the event. Triathletes with high levels of fitness who are gunning for a personal best performance, and perhaps a podium spot, will use different tactics than the new racer.


Beginner triathletes who have built just enough fitness to complete the event do not need to do an extensive warm-up. Most of the time, these triathletes will not warm up before the race. They will warm up during the swim, moving from relaxed zone 1 intensity to the highest swimming intensity they used during training. Most of the time this means beginning the swim in zone 1 and finishing it at zone 2 or zone 3 speed. The bike and run portions of the race will likely begin at zone 2 intensity and move to the highest intensity used during training.

Triathletes with some fitness and race experience may Continue reading

The benefits and effects of yoga for runners

Send to Kindle

Effects of Yoga on Runners

Runners are often reluctant to try yoga; their most common fear is that they are not flexible enough. It is not uncommon for those attending their first Yoga for Runners class to ask whether the room will be filled with lithe and flexible bodies, in spite of the class being advertised “For runners; no yoga experience necessary.” This fear may be driven by the many media images showing people in advanced yoga poses, fueling the notion that you have to be able to bend like a pretzel to do yoga. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Yoga is suitable for every body type. It can be started at any age regardless of physical condition, and those who are the stiffest have the most to gain. Runners, specifically, have a tremendous amount to gain from adding yoga to their fitness regimens.

Running can lead to injury because of its repetitive nature and the resulting musculoskeletal imbalances. On a physical level, yoga restores balance and symmetry to the body, making it the perfect complement to running. Runners are often drawn to yoga to deal with specific issues, such as improving flexibility or helping with an injury. Yet many are shocked at the world it opens for them, specifically, the strengthening capacity and the use of muscles they never knew they had. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of yoga, both physical and mental, on runners.

Physical Effects

As seen in the preceding definitions, yoga encompasses more than the mere physical postures. Nonetheless, the physicality of yoga is Continue reading

Basics in getting yourself started for a triathlon

Send to Kindle

Biomechanics of Triathlon
Triathlon participation involves three activities: swimming, biking, and running. Each activity requires a coordinated pattern of muscle recruitment that produces motion about the joints and creates the power to make the triathlete move. As a triathlete transitions from one discipline to the next, a concomitant increase in weight-bearing activity is seen.

The swim requires the triathlete to be prone, lying facedown in the water and using the arms and legs for propulsion. Most people without a swimming background quickly learn that swimming efficiency and, thus, speed are extremely dependent on technique. For those who are technically challenged, wetsuits, which are legal to use in certain water temperatures, provide buoyancy to help produce better swimming position, resulting in less drag on the legs. Most triathletes use the arms to a much greater extent than the lower extremities for propulsion, possibly to prevent lower-extremity fatigue when biking and running.

The transition to the bike places a greater emphasis on both the lower extremities and core. The upper extremities contribute stabilization and assist in bike-handling skills.

Running, the greatest weight-bearing activity of the three, places the most impact on the body and requires a smooth coordination between upper and lower extremities to enable efficient gait. Strength training with both isolated and sport-specific exercises as described in later chapters will help develop a strong foundation to create power and speed and also prevent injury.

A Test of Endurance
The common thread that binds all triathlon distances together is that they all require prolonged exercise tolerance. This is unlike many other sports. Professional American football players play an average of 12 minutes during a 60-minute game. It has been calculated that during an average soccer game that lasts 90 minutes, a soccer player runs about 6 miles (10 km). At even the shortest triathlon distance, the ability to maintain sustained exercise needs to be greater.

The cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal systems can be trained to handle this endurance stress. As more information is learned through research about an athlete’s ability to perform both aerobic and anaerobic exercise as well as Continue reading

The Bodyweight Advantage

Send to Kindle

The Bodyweight Advantage

Many folks absolutely love the prospect of being able to train efficiently in the convenience of their own home. Most fitness enthusiasts have gym memberships and have become highly dependent on machines and free weights to work their muscles. While I’m a huge proponent of using all types of resistance, bodyweight training is without a doubt the most convenient type of resistance. All you need is your own physical being, and you’ll never be without equipment or a facility and you’ll never need a spotter. In other words, if you learn to use your body as a barbell then you’ll always have the ability to obtain a great workout. You can gain tremendous functional fitness in terms of strength, power, balance, and endurance from progressive bodyweight training, and recent research shows that you can enhance your flexibility to the same or even a greater degree through resistance training than from a stretching routine.

I like to watch all types of athletes train. As a strength coach I’ve watched thousands of athletes lift weights. Two types of athletes have always stood out to me in terms of superior muscular control: gymnasts and bodybuilders. In awe, I watch the gymnast on the rings or the pommel horse maneuvering his body around the Continue reading

Running Technique Economy

Send to Kindle

If there was a technique improvement that would enable you to run at the same heart rate but faster, would you want to know about it? Running economy, improving your technique, might help you improve your times. This might be it. It’s not new but you might not have heard about it. Here are some videos (a video playlist) that will inform you.

Three Endurance Technique Development Exercises for Runners

Send to Kindle

This excerpt is from the book, Developing Endurance. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Purchase this book from Human Kinetics and help keep in online!

Arm Swings

The athlete sits on the floor with the legs extended straight in front of the body; the arms are bent at 90 degrees at the sides. The athlete begins swinging the arms forward and back slowly. She gradually increases the pace, focusing on pushing the elbows back and keeping the movement in the sagittal plane (forward and back). When the arms swing very quickly, the entire body may bounce up and down. If this happens, the athlete should focus on using core strength to maintain posture and limit any twisting or cross-body swinging.

Focus points: Developing a smooth arm swing forward and back with elbows bent and hands relaxed

Butt Kicks

This is a traditional track and field drill that emphasizes the rapid hamstring pull. The athlete should allow the hips and knees to flex in order to maintain the range of motion specific to the running stride. While running slowly forward, the athlete alternately lifts the ankle vertically by quickly pulling upward with the hamstring. He begins slowly at first. The athlete can gradually increase foot speed so that he is pulling the heels up very quickly and taking a greater number of steps while moving forward very slowly (fast feet, slow body). The arms must be coordinated with the legs during this drill. The drill can also be done stationary.

Focus points: Mid-foot striking, awareness of using the hamstring to pull the heel upward, maintenance of a high stride rate, practicing the arm swing


The athlete begins by walking, running, or simply taking one or two running steps to build momentum. He pushes explosively off the ground with the back leg, driving the opposite knee up and forward to gain height and distance. The athlete keeps the heel of the driving knee under the hip, ready to land on the ball of the Continue reading