Running and Beyond

Functional Movement

Conventional coaching guidelines for efficient running performance focus on isolated joints and muscles and they are not based on the scientific principles of functional anatomy and human movement science. Human movement system (HMS) is accomplished by integrated functioning of the muscular system, skeletal system and nervous system.

These three systems provide a coordinated movement of interconnected joints and muscles to form a functional chain movement. My study of functional anatomy and kinesiology revealed that a proper running movement cannot be achieved by training body segments such as legs, knees or ankles. Also, it is not widely understood that body movements are not accomplished by single commands to move isolated joints and muscles during the running stride.

One of the main principles of functional anatomy is based on training movements that require a group of muscle to work together in a coordinated pattern which can be referred to as a functional or kinetic chain movement. For instance, your ankles, knees, hip and pelvis joints, and calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles are responsible to provide movements for different phases of a running stride. It is not commonly recognized that muscles, joints and bones  form the links to comprise a functional chain movement and they must move together in a coordinated manner. If one of these links is not working properly, the entire functional chain is faltered and it can lead to a high impact throughout the body, and contribute to injury.

There’s no lack of advice and coaching recommendations how to improve running and walking. Also, many research studies explore different aspects of running and walking related to gait analysis, kinetic chain of running including a role the hip joint, pelvis and the foot and ankle play in the running stride cycle. However, the research related to the reasons that running causes a high impact on the human body and suggestions how to develop an efficient running stride has been very limited.

Conventional training methods for an efficient running stride focus mostly on improving of isolated body parts such as legs, knees or ankles. The simple action of moving a leg forward as a part of the running stride will be performed as a functional chain by engaging interconnected joints and muscles. The brain must be programmed to move a functional chain movement and to issue a series of commands to move muscles responsible for moving pelvic girdle, hip joint, knee joint and ankle joint in a coordinated manner.

As a result,  efficient running movement cannot be achieved without proper understanding of functional anatomy and interconnection between joints and muscles related to running stride. For instance, during a running stride cycle, quadruple flexion and extension of ankle joint, knee joint, hip joint, and pelvis must occur in a synchronized fashion. If one of these links is not working properly, the entire functional chain is faltered it can lead to a high impact throughout the body and contribute to injury.

Weight Shift and the Center of Body Mass

When I started my research about running I wanted to find an answer does why running bring such a high impact throughout the body? To this date, I couldn’t find any research and analysis to address this issue. When I ran I felt that my legs are under constant pressure of the body weight. Following this logic I was thinking if I can figure out a way to shift the body weight efficiently and avoid fighting gravity it would reduce the impact on the body and make running natural. It turned out to be a milestone decision and brought me to into the area of functional movement and I found out this issue has not been explored yet.

Movement can be described as changing positions with proper weight shift. It is not widely understood that it is necessary to shift the center of body weight as opposed to moving the whole body. In a vertical position, the center of body weight is located in the pelvis region below the navel. Shifting the center of body weight is associated with the ability to use pelvis and hip joints along with gluteal and abdominal muscles as primary movers.

My study of functional anatomy made an unexpected discovery that human body is anatomically built to shift the center of body weight. Therefore, the goal is to identify the links of a particular functional movement and how they function with each other as opposed to using your “own science” how to move the body. If a sufficient knowledge of functional anatomy is not acquired it will reduce significantly the ability to move properly in any sport, physical activity and daily life.

This means that attributing the loss of movement to aging exclusively is a misconception. In addition, if the movement does not include pelvis, hip joints, and gluteal muscles it will cause significant dysfunction throughout the body. It goes without saying that we need to learn how to walk before starting to run. Running is an advanced form of functional movement and demands properly coordinated actions of the numerous joints and muscles. If the walking gait is not efficient running, jogging and walking will put a multitude of tears and strains on the body.

Training Approach

In order to provide a proper transition between walking and running I recommend to divide training into three phases: 1) speed and race walking, 2) jogging and 3) running. When you become efficient in speed and race walking, you can transition to jogging and running. Also, you don’t have to run or jog because efficient race walking can produce a sufficient vigorous intensity and build aerobic stamina.

Applying the scientific principles of functional anatomy the running and walking stride should include the three basic components: 1) single-side balance, 2) forward lunge and 3) split squat. These movement figures need to be performed in a particular sequence with a neuromuscular precision and the training should start with practicing the single-side balance.

If you can keep the body balance by shifting the center of body mass to one side and hold the opposite side (torso and leg) airborne without excessive tension you can move to working on the forward lunge and split squat. If you cannot hold the body balanced with one side in the airborne position it will prevent you from executing properly the forward lunge and split squat.