A few weeks back, I coached a runner who was looking to improve their running technique. There were a few issues but the main area that we had to work on, which is a common fault with runners, was posture. When working with a new runner I like to use video footage and still images as well as just observing them as these are great feedback tools.
The first image below is before coaching and the bottom image is after. As you can can see, initially this runner's posture was a little hunched over with more flexion at the hip than I'd like to see (red line). However, after some work and a few cues the hips opened up, the chest lifted and technique looked far better (green line). But why is an upright posture so important when running? There are in fact several reasons:
Effective glute activation - If you're permanently flexed at the hip like in the top image, this doesn't give the glute muscles much of an opportunity to extend the hip fully. If you're able to run more upright, then you're in a position that allows for more hip extension, leading to higher glute activation and a more powerful push off from the back foot.
Preventing injuries - By keeping the spine straight and the shoulders back, you're promoting good alignment and your centre of gravity will be better positioned too. There are several problems that can come from poor posture but the one I hear about most often is lower back pain. If you're suffering from this whilst running, ensure you address your posture as this may well be the issue.
Promotion of efficient breathing - Running tall will help you to increase your lung capacity, potentially improving your endurance and overall performance. When hunched over with the head down, it becomes more difficult to inhale and exhale effectively. Bring your chest and head up to ensure you don't struggle with this.
I often hear that a slight forward lean is important in running. However, this slight lean should come from the ankles and should promote good alignment throughout the entire body. What you really must avoid is a lean that comes from the hips (for the reasons mentioned above).
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By Marc Brown