Coaching Cues To Correct Running Technique For Athletes


What does your initial evaluation process look like?

Coach Bob King (00:58):

When they walk in the door and we start the warm-up and get them moving into speed training, we want to see really just a body moving down a line. And so what I look for is if stuff's moving outside the line or the list, first of all, the frame of the body, which is, you know, draw a line or your shoulders straight down your arms is anything going outside of the frame of the body. That's not supposed to, because, in the backtrack of the arm, the elbow may swing outside a little bit. But if there's excess movement, cause if you look at something and go, wait a minute, that doesn't look right. Well, we go find out what does it look right? It could be the hair, it could be the shoulder movement arm, a lot of, lot of options. So what we'll end up doing is just looking for excess movement more is not better. And just as a side note that many young athletes kill themselves running because they're working so hard to try and run fast. They feel like they're running fast with all the energy they're exerting, but they're really fighting themselves. So we're looking for that. Where's all that extra movement coming from. That's the starting point.


Correcting the head

Coach Bob King (02:13):

Now we have the chicken in the egg. So is it the forehead or the chin? A lot of times the forehead is up there. Chins way up and forward. Everything is up. So what that does is it starts to the body, falls the head by the way. So if my head starts going up, my shoulders are going to go back and now I'm fighting myself when I'm trying to go forward. So that the chin is something to look at since it's so prominent, you can always tell when the chin is up too much. And that's, that's really a very common, the other second, most common thing is just trying to get the head to be helpful with speed development. In other words, trying to go from zero to start running fast, the head does a lot of things. It doesn't matter if it goes side to side up and down just ducks, you know, Dr. Chan. So the chances of great tell of where everything is headed. So if it's neutral, when you stand and you're looking straight ahead, like you're looking at a camera for a picture, the chin doesn't go anywhere. It just sits there. Your head has two functions. Your head is for looking and breathing. That is it. Your head cannot help you run faster. So what we have to do, where's that chin, what can we do to help so that it doesn't move. It only can get in the way. And


Gadgets to correct the head

Coach Bob King (03:29):

It, it goes to the extreme. So somewhat. So if you have these extreme movements, we will tell them to do other things that are extreme to fix it. So we have these sunglasses, we blacked out with electricians tape. And so you cannot see. And so what we'll do is put them down over the nose, a little lower so that if your chin is too high, then you have to tilt your chin down and look over the top of the glasses to see where you're going. And that forces you to learn how to run with your chin down. So that way we can, we can, you want to tell them what to do, of course, but if they can't do it telling them more or in the coaching world, a lot of times yelling louder is like, it's going to make it so they can, oh, you're yelling louder.


Coach Bob King (04:15):

Now I get it. It doesn't work like that. So what we'll do is have that sunglasses to get the chin down so they can repetitively keep their chin down, not just one time. So if you say now, put your chin down, okay, that's it now while you're standing there. So when you run, the first thing that's going to happen is what they're used to. So the sunglasses helped them look over the top of their frames and keep their chin in position. It's unnatural to them. But remember this, what you start out with is your normal. We're trying to create a new normal. So just tell the athlete, like, if it feels stupid, when you're doing it, you're probably doing it. Right. So that's the way we approach.


Correcting the Shoulders

Coach Bob King (05:04):

Well, we see a lot of, and this is my favorite thing because everybody understands the washer machine. And so that means when they're running, their shoulders are just going front to back. And yeah, the shrugging is definitely part of it. Cause let me just add this in real quick before we get there, but the spine is a very important part of it. But when you say a run tall, which is a coaching phrase, run tall, the first thing they want to do is pick up their chin or shrug their shoulders. So what we'll have to do is get the shoulder problems in the arm. So you'll understand this. If you see the problem, what's the solution. If their shoulders are doing the washing machine wiggle, then it's probably because of improper or lack of our movement. So that's where you can typically fix it.


Coach Bob King (05:46):

So one of the drills, since the shoulders are just fixed on the, on the body, the torso, the arms are a key. So what we'll do is we'll have a drill. We call big arms. And what we do is we tell them to pull their elbow back and put their thumb in their belt loop that keeps the hand at the proper height, but their arms go swing behind them more than normal. But if they go forward with the big arm swing, they have to keep your shoulders still. Then we start slowing them down and give them other tools to play with. But the shoulder swing droopy shoulders is a spine issue. See? So you have to know where the connection is. So if there's, if they demonstrate very poor posture in the shoulders, it's usually the spine. And we tell them, look, I'm gonna just take a glass of ice water and pour it down your back. And you're going to get straight and you don't usually have to do that cause they understand that concept. So the shoulders are tricky because the arms impact the shoulders and the spine impacts his shoulders. And all three are separate.


Correcting the Arms

Coach Bob King (06:55):

The most common one is the drummer. You don't even see them using their arms, your elbow doesn't move, but their hands are drumming. And so their hands are just moving up and down drumming. And that's the first problem we usually see now its arms, but we have to kind of keep this all connected because it is connected, the hands impact what the arms will do. And so what you want to make sure is this risk stays. What's called neutral. It's flat. If they do this, which I'm going to go right into this, we see this in a lot of, let's say middle school, high school soccer players, they've cocked her wrist. And when they do that, cause they're running slow. They just had their hands at their side. If your wrist is cocked like this, your elbow will travel out. And so you get, you're not getting front to back, you're getting in and out.


Coach Bob King (07:42):

And so that's a very common mistake that we have to fix. We use a giant rubber band, or we'll take a TheraBand and make a big loop and put it in the crooked, the thumb, and around the elbow. Because if your elbow straightens out, it'll come off. And if your hand does that, you'll feel it. So what you want to do is just make sure the hand stays normal. Stand with your arms straight at your side, look down at your hands. That's it. Bend your elbows and run. So if you just stand in a mirror, look down at your arms, hands when your arms are straight, you'll see your finger slightly curly. And your wrist is straight bend your elbow, elbow, elbow, back hand-ups. That's about the end of that story, but it's so difficult if they are not doing it normally, then you have to create a new normal.


Keeping the Arms At A 90 Degree Angle

Coach Bob King (08:36):

There's a couple of things I see in you know, the big leagues of track and field, especially are that arm swing opens up in the back. And anything that opens up takes time to recover. And so if you look at the good video or good pictures, which I have a bunch of these, so the evidence is there. The guys that, and the women that are running well and fast, their elbow is almost at the height of their shoulder, in the backswing. I'm talking about world-class athletes. So it gives you something to work with. They have their elbow almost to the shoulder height at high speed, and their hand is straight down. That means their arms at 90 degrees. So if their elbows up to their shoulder, the hand is down elbows at 90. It's not at 180 or 140, or almost straight.


Coach Bob King (09:23):

That way it can recover quickly to the front and at the front, it's going to close up a wide range of degrees there. I'm just going to randomly say 45. Cause that's a pretty safe folding angle, but there's a wide range of degrees there. So don't, don't worry about 45. Just don't hit yourself in the chin cause you've overdone it. So what we want to do is just elbow back, elbow back, not the hand. The hand is along for the ride. Like the head, the hand cannot make you run faster. It can only make you run slower. All right, before


Trunk And Spine

Coach Bob King (10:06):

Have a drill where we run with no arms and it's an incredibly valuable drill for the shoulders. Because if you put your arms behind your back and hold your wrist, and when you run, because you do not have your shoulders to counterbalance, you are developed speed. Your shoulders will do the most improper thing you don't want them to do. We allow that, we just tell the athlete, look, when you, when you run, your shoulders are going to wiggle. Don't worry about it. Let that happen. We come back, we sit a cone out, run halfway, no arms. When you get to the cone, drop your arms and use them to come back. All right. What'd, y'all notice two things. Number one, they all know they sped up because the arms and legs are connected. No surprise. The second thing is that the arms, the shoulders quit wiggling when the arms got involved. So that's, here's the point. We're not doing a drill just to do a drill. They can see it and feel it. So they know that now I get it. So if I swing my arms, my shoulders stay still. And not only that I speed up. So we give them the physical sensation of what the drill is supposed to do so they can own it.


Correcting the Hips

Coach Bob King (13:08):

That's a tricky thing because the hips, no pun intended, but they're really along for the ride. You know, because they sit on top of the femur and the legs carry them and then the hips are carrying the spine. And so, you know, if somebody says, well, you know, and this is a real situation their hips are too low. That's going to be in the legs because their foot strikes wrong. Flection and the knee are too much. And what's what we call the chair position. If you're not familiar with the chair position, your, your spine is pretty much perpendicular. Your thigh is parallel and in your femur, I, your tibia is straight down. And so it just is a perfect chair because they don't have the lean in the shoulders. They don't have the extension in the hips, which is the leg extension on the ground. It's all connected to the point where the hips are kind of the fulcrum, the engine, the transmission between the upper body and the lower body. You


Keeping The Hamstrings Healthy

Coach Bob King (14:49):

Let me see if I have a short answer. Well, the problem is this is another, maybe we just make this a whole other podcast too, do this and other conversations about how much is enough and that's the problem. I don't know. One of the things that I've noticed in just all respect, every strength coach out there, but some guys are building monuments to themselves when they design programs, you know, look how much we squat bench clean, et cetera. Well, how much do you need to bench squat and clean it? I will guarantee anybody that we do less in our program than anybody on the planet, we do fewer squads, fewer cleans. We do everything you might say, but we don't do it to the extent. For example, in our summer program, we have a, we squat one on Friday, we squat one day a week, or do we, because, on Olympic day, which is Wednesday for us, we're doing the Olympics.


Coach Bob King (15:41):

Well, what is that? It's a front squat, 90% of the time. It's a front squat. We may or may not go deep, but we are doing a front squat with the hang cleans and power cleans. So it doesn't have to be a squat on the back deep every time because the movement is explosive and fast. And let me just add this in here. The plyometric explosive training we do is once a week or is it because the Olympics are an explosive movement to specific explosive movements ended up being with the squats on Friday. Why do we do that? What is squatting? Squatting is a strong, slow movement. What are plyometrics and explosive fast movement by combining them? And we do them toward the end of our training. On that day. We want to remind the body how to be fast. We want the last thing the body did to be fast and explosive while the squats are settling in.


Coach Bob King (16:32):

This means that we think two days a week of the heavy-lift on the squats and the explosives is enough, not every day. So that answers my own question of how much is enough. Two days a week is fine. Why you're doing something every day. So it's not like you do something on Friday. Don't do it again until next Friday. No, because in our program, six days a week, we're doing something on a regular basis. Most of it's centered around speed and we've had our guys, we've had four, three guys we've had big verticals and we had division one pro guys. So it works.


Correcting The Knees

Coach Bob King (17:25):

Well, that's a great way to put it the bottom, half the body. You know, you talk about one thing, you can't help the other. So I'm going to collect this real quick. So if I say pick up your knees you won't be able to see it here. But if I S if you stand and just say, pick up your knee, you're going to find that when you pick your knee up, your foot is hanging right down below you. Well, we have good and bad because your knees up now where it's supposed to be. Now, your foot is hanging down where it's not supposed to be. Now, if you stand and I say, pick up your heel, pick your heel straight up under your butt. Your knee will come up and forward to the height that it needs to be when you run. So, you know, tomato, tomato, chicken in the egg were what's first here.


Coach Bob King (18:09):

Well, I go to the heel for the knee because now I'm going to say the footnote is if, if it's somebody that's younger and has a slower time connecting all this, I will say, pick your knees up because they understand that almost immediately because everybody can stand and walk and March. So marching is a good way to say, all right, pick your knees up now, run and pick your knees up. We may have to deal with the heel later, but we got to get the knees up first. If the, if the heel comes up, the knee comes up, the knee comes up, the heel comes up. Heel placement is the issue. All


Correcting The Heel

Coach Bob King (18:47):

We have a nice little thing. Everybody knows. Okay, let me, let me get this straight right off. Heels to butt and high knees are critically important to do correctly. Now, heels to butt mean you bring your heel to your butt. Your knee stays down. Your knee does not come forward. And your heel goes to your butt. You'll see them. If you're not careful, and you're not paying attention that he'll swing outside, it'll leave the mark. Instead of going up and down in a line, it'll travel. So you have to watch for that practice makes permanent. So don't be doing the wrong thing over and over. So the heel to butt, knee down heels to the, but the partner that is the high knees, heels to butt is behind the but high knees are the heel under the butt. As I just mentioned, if you go heel up under your butt, your knee is going to come to the correct height.


Coach Bob King (19:37):

And then both of them have the same coach and cue when they're in motion, that is light steps, lots of touches, light steps, lots of touches. That's five words. And that's about as long as it's going to go. And it's if you need just one phrase, one word for high knees and heels to, but it's tat, tat, tat, tat do not pound the ground. If you can hear them come and they're not doing it right. So you want to tell him to tap, tap. Tap is what you do with the ground light steps, lots of touches.


Heel And Ankle Working Together

Coach Bob King (20:19):

Yes. And so the coaching phrase for what you just said is knee up, heel up toe up. The three things that coaches like to say, and it's correct. Knee up, heel up toe-up, which is everything we're talking about. Now, the hardest of all those three is the TOA Dorsey flection, because you have to bring that toe up and it's very difficult to teach much less, be able to just say and do it. And so what happens is if, just so you'll know what to look let me, let me get this out of the way. Heel strikes easy. If you're landing on your heels, you say, get up on the ball of your foot. You can say, get on your toes. But, you know, I hope everybody knows that's technically not correct. It's the ball of the foot, but to communicate, if you're on the heel, get on your toes and will get their heel up, but get their toe up what you ended up having to do, or individual drills to where we call them.


Coach Bob King (21:12):

Their ankle flips, where you lock your knees and you swing your foot from your leg front to back and pick your toe up and bounce off your, off the ball of your foot to go to the drills that king sports training does is we have acquired a large number of steel-toed work shoes. And so they're, they're the height of any regular shoe, but they have a steel toe in them, which adds weight to the front end of the shoe, which is out ahead of the toe. So it's not heavy, but it gets heavy. And so if you do not pick your toe up, you will not stay up. Right? So it is turned out to be a windfall for us in our training development, to run with a steel-toed shoe on. And even if they don't have that problem with the extra weight, it becomes a nice little over-weighted speed training device we use with our more advanced athletes. So it is very difficult, but another way to do it stationary wise, to just have them stand and pick your knee up a little way off the ground and work the ankle up and down so they can activate the Dorsey flection on their own and know what that toe-up mean.


Hurdles And Ladder Drills

 Coach Bob King (22:34):

The hurdles and ladders. Here's the thing. If I tell somebody to run fast and they're not, and when I say run faster and they run a little bit faster, and if I yell, run faster and they run a little bit faster, I'm out of ideas. And so what happened in the very beginning of this program, which goes way back when we were making hurdles out of PVC pipe, is that, well, they've mastered this. And so the hurdles and ladders are the number one and phenomenal training devices for beginners. Number two, I use the ladder in half or full form as part of my extended warmup. We call it and it just gets the feet firing. And we say, in our coaching cue for the ladder is to teach the feet because we have so many different patterns. Everybody's got patterns. Youtube is full of ladder patterns, but if you're not emphasizing, teach the feet quick and light that's that speed.


Coach Bob King (23:26):

And so if the athlete, you know, I don't care who they are. Some of these athletes struggle if they've not done the ladder before, but once they master it, we've added devices to it to enhance it. Whether it's carrying medicine ball cables, we have a whole menu of items we've done with the ladder and taking that to the hurdles. We use the cable on the hurdles. We use hand weights on the hurdles. So we've done things and changed the stride pattern on the hurdles. Then we got to where we created a hurdle ladder, Allie, and a hurdle ladder straight away, where we run through the hurdles, or doesn't matter, which one's first, we go both ways, run through the ladder, sprint 10 yards into the hurdles and come back. Or we sprint half a ladder, come down the middle of the ladder between the hurdles turn, and go down the hurdles that we have a hurdle-ladder-alley. So we create foot patterns that are very different. So you go from a ladder to a sprint, to a hurdle, your foot pattern changes your neuromuscular system. You have to be in, you have to be athletic. So we have done things to advance, just a pattern of laying out the hurdles and ladders and saying, go, we have advanced it significantly. And what


Why Hurdles And Ladders Work

Coach Bob King (24:45):

Well, just to say, that's a great question because this is what we discovered. If you pay attention when you're coaching, here's what you see. You see a lot of things because of what I do in my business like in we call June and July the same as the mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that's when everybody comes in and we are busy, but what we noticed over the years and it doesn't matter if we send off doesn't matter, basketball, tennis, baseball, what happens when they go to their season in sport for an extended period of time. And they come back, they have forgotten how to run. Now. It's not that they're slow, but there's not, but they just really it's like, have you ever done this before? Because they run a little, little stiff, a little awkward. Now, typically it takes like the first session to get the dust off and get their, their juices flowing, the grease pumping.


Coach Bob King (25:36):

And you have to reteach, you have to relearn kind of stuff. You forgot because we call it sports posture. We teach everybody how to be a sprinter because if you learn how to be a sprinter, you can train fast. If you can train fast, you'll go back into your sport faster than when you come back. We started over, it takes about a day to get it relearned or remembered. And off we go and we add enhancements because the body gets bored and the mind gets bored. So we had to do things to challenge that. And that's where we've done a good job, I think, with our speed training creativity.



Recent Posts