How to assess running mechanics: The 4 Ps
Before an athlete can implement the right running mechanics, it is important to understand any technical deficiencies.
“We are not training our athletes to become 100m sprinters; however, we are taking qualities out of sprinting which improves technique, thus enabling an athlete to improve their capacity of developing force,” explained Griffith.
To assess running mechanics, the leading strength and conditioning coach suggested a 4 P’s framework – posture, positioning, placement, patterning.
“The 4 P’s enable coaches to categorise drills, allowing them to emphasise particular components of running mechanics within their athletes,” he said.
Posture relates to an athlete’s body alignment and ensuring force is directed towards the desired direction.
“Poor posture will limit their potential, and under- or over-reaching will increase the risk of injury. If aligned properly, athletes can generate maximum force,” said Griffith.
“To assess alignment, take a ground-to-head approach to assess your athlete’s body alignment. You should identify if their striking leg is directly underneath their hip at the point of ground contact.”
Positioning explains the angles and mobility of the body’s joints during the mechanics of running.
“All athletes have elastic potential, and the correct running mechanics maximises this elasticity. The desired flexibility and mobility to produce sprinting force can be seen in exercises like repetitive pogo jumps,” he said.
Placement is wholly related to strike and ground contact. Are athletes striking the ground with the correct foot placement?
“For effective placement, understand the angle of the shin and the dorsiflexion at the ankle joint. You want to see a positive shin angle to get the maximum output. Plyometric exercises like bounding are a great way to assess the positions your athletes get into,” suggested Griffith.
“You should also consider if your athletes are excessively bending their knees at the point of ground contact as you want to maximise the stretch-shortening cycle.”
Patterning concerns the rhythm and tempo of an athlete’s movements.
“Actions should be worked in coordination with each other. For example, your arms need to work with your legs to form a pattern that is seamless. Where possible, encourage coordination to avoid awkward movements in isolation, since awkwardnesses may cause a decline in performance as the body transitions through specific movements,” said Griffith.