The Benefits of Running Drills

Running drills yield runners a long list of benefits including improved strength, speed, balance, coordination and muscle firing. Running drills are a series of repeated and often exaggerated movements that help to improve many aspects of running technique and therefore lead to overall improvements in running economy.

I often hear runners comment that they don’t like doing many of these drills because many of the exaggerated movements makes them feels silly or even ‘show boaty’ out on the track or gym treadmill. If this describes your attitude towards completing running drills, the good news is you can sneak many drills right into your regularly scheduled aerobic runs no matter where you are, and not too many folks would be the wiser.

For example mix in a few running drills with choose to do your drills during a day where you are out doing fartleks. So for example, while you are sprinting between telephone poles, drive your elbows back and bring your knees up as if you were a world class sprinter going for the gold!

Here is a list of some more common running drills including a brief description and tips for execution.

  1. Strides – strides are controlled pick ups of speed during a regular run. These brief injections of speed help to keep your legs fresh during training without being taxing like an all out speed session. The key is to practice the acceleration while maintaining a very relaxed posture (shoulders relaxed with wrists brushing your hips bones).

    During a regular run, and always after your warm up period, pick a section of road, trail or short amount of time on the treadmill and quickly build your speed. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds then coast back to your original pace.

  2. Quick feet – this is a drill that improves your running cadence by teaching your leg muscles (hamstrings most) to fire faster and feet to turnover quicker. A quick cadence is a shorter stride with minimum ground time. Efficient runners have short quick strides regardless of pace. Minimum ground time helps your running form by getting your feet up quickly under your butt which discourages over-striding and heel striking.

    During a regular run, and always after your warm up period, count how many times your right or left foot hits the ground within an exact minute. When you are ready to start ‘quick feet’, try squeezing an extra 5 single steps within a minute period by lifting your feet quicker once they touch the ground. Focus on bringing your feet up directly under your butt. This is very taxing on your hamstrings since these are the primary movers for lifting your feet directly up under you.

  3. Skipping – skipping is a plyometric drill that helps to stretch and strengthen the feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings and glutes. Skipping broken down is really nothing more than alternating single foot hops. As you bring one leg up and forward, you swing your opposite arm back. There are a few ways you can perform skipping drills. Like a child skipping down the road switching from one leg to the other, you can skip down the road or track. This type of skipping can be combined with high knees for doubly effective drill that is double the fun! You can also skip in one place using a rope alternating from foot to foot.
  4. High Knees – exaggerated horizontal leg positioning to develop the strength and endurance of your upper thighs and hip flexors. If you’ve ever finished a marathon and had a hard time lifting your legs as you’re cooling down, you would have experienced fatigue in the muscles responsible for high knees. You would also appreciate how important it is to have muscular endurance in these muscles.

    High knees drills compliment the quick feet drill since the hip flexors and upper thighs are responsible for bringing your leading leg up from the support position to the next step.

  5. Bounding – thanks to the effect of gravity on our own body weight, bounding builds incredible ankle, foot and calf strength. Bounding is also great for the hip flexors because the thighs are brought perpendicular to the ground like with the high knees drill. Most commonly performed on very gradual inclines as an element of hill repeats , bounding involves leaping forward over large gaps like a gazelle. Bounding can really get your heart rate up quickly so pick a small to medium length hill with a very gradual incline.
  6. Butt kickers – these really help to drive into your brain to get your feet up quickly and directly under your butt. They also train to hamstrings to fire more rapidly. Landing directly over your feet and bringing them up as quickly as they touch the ground directly under your pelvis creates the shortest possible lever and so is an extremely efficient running movement. A shorter lever means quicker turnover with less effort and so can translate to increased running speed .
  7. Froggies (aka Squat Jumps) – this is another plyometric running drill that helps strengthen the glutes, quads, calves, ankles and muscles of the foot. It also promotes support and flexibility in the ankles as well as opens up your hips. With so many benefits, Froggies are really a great use of your training time!

    With feet shoulder-width apart and nice posture, squat straight down and put your arms straight up as if you were reaching for the sky. Launch yourself upwards and forwards as your arms swing down along your sides. Land back down into a squat with your arms up in the air and repeat.

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