Running Series #6

Good morning fitness enthusiasts!  Today we continue learning about the 12 standards from Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book, Ready to Run.  I fully support and agree with these standards as being very important key points to not just running technique/maintenance, but many other aspects of training as well.squat depth

Standard #4: An Efficient Squatting Technique

This deals with good hip function and good ankle function.  Achieving this standard also includes being able to perform a sequence of good squats under a small dose of metabolic load.  Being able to squat well is essential to establishing good movement patterns in everything else you do in life.  You will build posterior chain power and protect your body from injury.  If you’re in the running world, you’ve probably heard that runners typically have “weak hips”.  Or maybe it’s that “the glutes aren’t firing”, they’re “shut-down”, or “imbalanced”.  A good runner needs to have hip drive.  If you’ve ever gone for a run and felt a lot of pop off the ground, like you’re leaping, that’s hip drive.  Dr Starrett states, “there’s no more direct and effective way to illuminate your movement problems than squatting”.  As you fatigue in a race, your technique becomes even more crucial to keep you from accumulating chronic injury.  Good movement patterns and knowing how to squat well is going to make you a better, more functional person.  You can apply it to your daily life.  If a friend asks you for help moving,  you don’t need to apologize and say you’re worried about getting hurt.

Starrett tells the story of a top American middle-distance runner that had qualified to run the 1,500m in the World Championships.  The times he was doing that summer indicated that he had a shot of medaling.  But he never made it to World’s.  Why? One day he was mowing the lawn and threw his back out.  Being a runner shouldn’t mean that you can’t lift a box or push a baby stroller without the threat of a season-ending injury.

Test #1)

Either set up your phone to record yourself or have a reliable give you feedback.  Your goal is to do a squat with your hips dropping below your knees and then return to the starting position.  You must achieve the following specifics:

  1. Stand with your feet just outside your shoulders-the classic power stance in athletics.  Position your feet straight or slightly open.  A duck-footed stance, with your toes pointing too far outward, is a fault.  Pigeon-toed inward is also a fault.Squats12
  2. Activate your butt and posterior chain.  With your feet straight, turn on the muscles of your posterior chain (arches to hamstrings, hips, and muscles supporting your trunk) by pretending that you are screwing two dinner plates into the ground with  your feet.  Extend your arms forward as a measure of counterbalance before you go down into the squat. Squat34
  3. Drive your knees outward.  Keep your heels on the ground and drive your knees outward to prevent any inward (valgus) knee movement.
  4. Drop your hips below the plane of your knees without extending your knees over your feet.  Your air squat needs to be deep enough that the hip crease at the front of your leg drops below the plane of your knees.
  5. Keep your knees from extending over your feet.  If you keep your shins vertical, you can unload stress from your knees and use your hips and hamstrings to do the work for the squat.  Also take note of a flat back.  Before beginning and throughout the execution of the squat, your glute and ab muscles should be active so that they can maintain a strong, neutral spine and a flat back.
  6. Hang out in the squat position.  Spend time in the squat position.  This is how you will develop mobility for a better squat and give you better hip function for running
  7. Use a support.  If you’re coming into this standard with weak, tight hips, shorted heel cords, and other mobility and strength restrictions, use a pole as a support to collect minutes in a deep squat position.



Valgus Knees (left) & Duck Feet (right)

Test #2)

The ability to do a lot of good squats when fatigued.  Use the Tabata squat test as a routine check to make sure you’re keeping an eye on things throughout the year.  This consists of 8 short, 20-second intervals and even shorter 10-second rests.  Within each minute of a 4 minute period, you will perform two 20-second bouts of work, each followed by a 10-second breather.  You will be doing a total of 4 minutes of work.  These type of squats quickly introduce fatigue and expose weaknesses.  Make sure you are filming this with some kind of recorder so you know what you look like.  Be sure to prefix this Tabata squat test with a thorough warm-up.

Final thought:  Hip mobility can increase greatly just by doing a proper squat depth often and holding the bottom position as well.  There are also some great banded hip mobility exercises that I’ll touch on in later posts.  For increasing ankle flexion this banded one is great.  Wrap the band around the front of your ankle, get some good tension in the band, and drop your opposite knee to the ground.  Use your hand to press your knee outward, keeping your foot flat on the ground.  Try to push your knee down towards the ground, without letting your heel come up.


Running Intro,
Running Series #1,
Running Series #2,
Running Series #3,
Running Series #4
Running Series #5

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