Training

How To Improve Your Running Kickback The Right Way

August 8th 2019

In strength training, making sure you have proper running form may not be something that is actively preached. However, it makes a significant difference in terms of your joint health and motivation in the long term. If you are not an efficient runner, you will lose energy more rapidly. This is just a downhill journey from here.

Running and its benefits has attracted the focused eyes of athletes, health care professionals, and even weightlifters. It is often heard that there are better ways to run or more efficient forms when in reality it is the individual that really matters.  There are numerous research studies explaining the proper biomechanics of running and how specific tips regarding form or posture can improve the way someone runs. While certain generalizations in regard to a population like athletes or teenagers can be made to increase the prevention of injury or optimize running speed, it cannot make specific, key points about the biomechanical workings of an individual. Running is customized towards your style and your form. Analyzing your running gait and form should yield answers that are distinct against your body’s physical attributes. 

In track and field or in other large running events, there is a strong emphasis on back kick running and how it contributes to the physiological processes of running in general. For many weightlifters, it is crucial to switch to a back kick running as many lifters begin with a low or slow back kick due to enlarged muscle mass and increased number of Type II muscles found in weightlifters. In order to improve your running form, especially as a weightlifter, it is wise to utilize back kick running and to evaluate your running gait based on your physical features. 

What Is Back Kick Running and How Does it Help Me?

The back kick takes place during the stance phase where the foot creates contact with the ground. It creates a mechanism that withdraws the foot from the ground, similar to a knee-jerk reaction. Along with a barefoot running style which increases the amount of proprioception of high back kicking, this intensity of the knee jerk reflex increases with more tactile stimulation and muscle movement. Robbins and Gouw in 1990 discovered that runners that ran barefoot instead of running shoes demonstrated a higher back kick in order to maintain the increased tactile sensations and stabilize equilibrium forces when running. 

Running has many benefits on its own such as maintaining your weight and metabolic rate, strengthening your joints like the hip or knee joints, improve memory, attention, concentration and organization, and reduces your risk of certain types of cancers and Alzheimer’s disease (Runner’s World 2005). 

The Running Gait Cycle

Running Gait for Strength Training

The human locomotion is a vastly researched topic among exercise scientists and physiologists. A gait analysis evaluates human locomotion and is typically defined as one heel strike to the next heel strike of the same foot. There are two main stages in the gait cycle which are stance and swing. The stance phase consists of the foot on the ground, while the swing phase is when the foot is in the air. When both feet are touching the ground, this is known as double support. 

The first of the eight phases is known as initial contact and is observed by the heel striking the ground. Second, is a loading response where the knee slightly flexes to absorb shock and tries to stabilize the limb. Third, is the midstance where the body progresses forward over the supporting foot to create momentum. Next is the terminal stance where the center of gravity is directed past the front of the supporting limb. The swing phase includes pre-swing, initial swing, mid-swing, and terminal swing. Pre-swing is the transition phase between stance and swing. Initial swing keeps the knee, hip, and ankle joints flexed to create foot clearance. Mid-swing augments foot clearance. Terminal swing is the last phase of gait and places the final advancement of the body and positions the foot to start initial contact once more. 

How to Improve Your Back Kick Running

 

  • Run on your forefoot
  • Keep your body, especially your shoulders relaxed
  • No heel strike
  • Do not bend from the waist
  • Having a relaxed knee lift

 

While there are many generalized tips online that focus on changing one’s form, it is crucial to create a customized adjustment towards the individual’s running form for the most accurate results. For instance, your running form should not be an exact match of someone else’s. A good way of evaluating your running form would be to record a video of yourself, and then have a friend or colleague break down every aspect of your form. This allows for an unbiased opinion and a fresh set of eyes to provide you with constructive criticism. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while running:

  1. Run on your forefoot! The whole concept of back kick running is based on running on your forefoot which is the front part of your foot. This is also the most efficient when running barefoot as it allows for more proprioception which induces a strong knee jerk reflex, which in turn results in a higher back kick.
  2. Keep your body, especially the shoulders, relaxed at all times. For optimal performance, relaxed shoulders can help contribute to efficient running posture. Have them stay level and not sway from side to side with each step. 
  3. For a good back kick, it is crucial for there to be no heel strike. A good runner is one that is soft and swift on their feet. By running on the forefoot and keeping the knee over the foot, it will allow for increased velocity and proprioception.
  4. Try not to bend from the waist. While running you should create a neutral spine, as if you could draw a straight line from the back of your head to the bottom of your heel. 
  5. Lastly, work on having a relaxed knee lift, not an exaggerated one. As the forefoot hits the ground, the knee should experience slight flexion so it can naturally absorb the shock. You can see this as you move your arms back and forth which causes either lower limb to increase or decrease its speed. Think of it visually as if you have a piece of string tied around your wrist to your opposite knee. Every time you raise your wrist forward, the opposite knee should follow. 

Injury Prevention for Back Kick Running

Running injuries are extremely common among weightlifters when they first begin running a decent amount of mileage. The three tissues that absorb the initial shock from running occur from the Achilles’ tendon, plantar fascia, and the quadriceps mechanism. It is advised to slowly increase your duration and intensity by no more than 10% a week. 

To avoid injury from the hip abductors, which is one of the most popular locations of injury among runners, it is recommended to train with “eccentric knee exercise and concentric plantar flexion” (Novacheck 1998). 

Training errors made in the construction of a plan can also decrease the ability of the musculoskeletal system to adjust to high-impact forces. In an article conducted by the National Institute of Health, it was recommended to “limit increases in duration or intensity by no more than 10% a week” (Schmitz et. al 2014). By utilizing this technique, one is able to maintain a gradual progression of intensity and duration of back kick running. 

Conclusion

Overall, the approach to forefoot running increases not only muscular strength but also leads to a higher back kick! For any strength training athletes, this is good news for you. Hopefully, you understand that there is more to cardio than just getting on a treadmill or just running a mile or two as a cooldown. There is actually a technique involved and it would be foolish to continue practicing bad habits. So, make it a priority to unlearn any bad patterns and to make sure you are prime and proper for all your cardio sessions. 

So, if you are doing a program like 5/3/1 Forever and need to work on improving your running technique, this article should have briefed you the multiple layers of efficient runing. Good luck with all your fitness endeavors!

References

Hahn, Jane Unger. “The Perfect Form.” Runner’s World, June 16, 2005. https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20811603/perfect-running-form/.

Riches, Bretta. “Why Most Ethiopian Runners Have a High Back Kick.” RUN FOREFOOT (blog), June 25, 2015. http://runforefoot.com/ethiopian-runners-high-back-kick/.

Robbins SE and Gouw GJ. Athletic footwear and chronic overloading – a brief review. Sports Med,1990; 9(2):76-85.

Figure from: Stöckel, Tino & Jacksteit, Robert & Behrens, Martin & Skripitz, Ralf & Bader, Rainer & Mau-Moeller, Anett. (2015). The mental representation of the human gait in young and older adults. Frontiers in Psychology. 6. 943. 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00943.

Novacheck, Tom F. (1998).“The Biomechanics of Running.” Gait and Posture, 3(19), 83-93.

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