What is the proper posture for running? One thing you don’t want to do with your overall body posture when running is to have a stiff, upright upper body posture as running too upright is tiring on the quadriceps.
Proper Posture for Running
In running, trunk posture is a critical interface between acceleration and muscular work. In fact, trunk posture during running occupies most of the forward momentum, which essentially means your upper body position greatly affects how well you move forward with minimal braking.
- Running with a too upright trunk may cause you to lean back, not forward, which puts more mechanical work on your quads to pull your body mass forward.
The braking phase, which occurs at the beginning of stance, also comes with an energetic cost. Hamner et al. (2010) found that during braking, the muscles accelerated the center of mass backwards during the first 60% of stance and the muscles accelerated the center of mass forward during the remaining 40% of stance. The researchers found that the quadriceps were responsible for both braking and support phase during heel strike running.
- The researchers found that the quadriceps contributed to twice the peak braking acceleration and half of the vertical support of the center of mass
There is a clear connection between effort and consequence in heel strike running: an upright trunk posture takes more effort to tug the center mass at each step, thereby engaging the quadriceps in intense ways that are not economically beneficial.
Forefoot Running Alleviates Quadricep Stress
Remarkable differences in how trunk posture influences energy expenditure has been observed in forefoot runners. Researchers refer to forefoot runners as ‘gliders’ because forefoot running involves a tilted trunk posture as well as increased knee flexion and ankle plantarflexion to buffer against braking.
When the center mass is behind initial foot strike position (i.e. upright trunk posture), as in heel strike running, the trunk passes through a larger area of horizontal displacement. As a result, the legs, especially the quadriceps, exert more physical effort to transport the center of mass from behind to in front of foot strike position to keep the system moving.
Quadricep fatigue is avoided when trunk posture is in proximity to initial foot strike position which is achieved by slightly tilting the trunk forward, bending the knees and landing on your forefoot.
- Forefoot Running Prevents Quadricep Fatigue. Tilt trunk forward, keep both knees relaxed and bent and completely relax your feet and ankles to land forefooted.
Running forefooted while tilting the trunk also inhibits the rapid transition from touchdown to stance. As mentioned earlier, an upright trunk posture coupled with heel striking at touchdown produces braking, therefore a more rapid transition from touchdown to stance that also produces an impact peak not produced in forefoot running.
The Take Home Message
Overall, braking is a persistent problem in heel strike running and is why most elite runners avoid heel strike because the faster you run on your heels, the greater the braking force as well as the impact peak. Less force penetrates the body during forefoot running because the forward trunk tilt reduces body weight support and because the lower extremity joints are more flexed.
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Cavagna GA, Saibene FP, Margaria R. Mechanical Work in Running. J Appl Physiol. 1964; 19:249– 256. [PubMed: 14155290]
Dickinson MH, Farley CT, Full RJ, Koehl MAR, Kram R, Lehman S. How Animals Move: An
Integrative View. Science. 2000; 288(5463):100–106. [PubMed: 10753108]
Hamner SR., Seth A and Delp SL. Muscles contributions to propulsion and support during running. J Biomech, 2010; 43(14):2709-2716.
Liu MQ, Anderson FC, Schwartz MH, Delp SL. Muscle contributions to support and progression over a range of walking speeds. J Biomech. 2008; 41(15):3243–3252. [PubMed: 18822415]
Sasaki K, Neptune RR. Differences in muscle function during walking and running at the same speed. J Biomech. 2006; 39(11):2005–2013. [PubMed: 16129444]
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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