Proper Running Techniques: Head Over Foot
Author: David Weck | WeckMethod
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Hi, I’m David Weck, and today I want to talk to you about locomotion. Specifically running as fast and as efficiently as possible, and even walking stronger. To do this, we use something called the Head Over Foot Technique. I’m going to teach you an exercise in this video that is the most productive ground based training exercise you can do because it enhances locomotion at the most fundamental level. It’s all about balance. Running, walking, one foot at a time. In order to find balance on one foot with a neutral spine, the head has to be aligned directly over that foot. So, my foot on the ground and my head have to have perfect alignment (if I have a neutral spine), in order for me to balance. You can test this for yourself by just standing normally. Don’t move your head and lift your foot. You’ll find that you don’t have balance.
Now runners, many of them simply don’t do this. They’re not patterned to do it optimally. So they land without their head over their foot, and that means that they don’t have balance. And that means that the forces can’t transmit through the body cleanly. There’s compensation. Repetitive stress is the result, injury, pain, etc.
Walking, almost everybody walks without landing head over foot. And if you take 5,000 steps a day, eventually it’s going to get you. All of that compensation gets funneled down to the lower back, and 80% of people have back pain. Is it any wonder? Walking and running, we can make this fundamentally better with the Head Over Foot Technique.
So, we’ve established that to balance on one foot, you need the head directly over that foot. We define that foot as the full foot. It’s full because it’s on the ground supporting you. The foot in the air is called for free foot. ‘That’s’ the free foot, and I have to get to that foot, and I have to land with my head over that foot. Now, the key to that is side bending. Side bending is the key to rotational power. It is the key to optimizing extension and flexion in the body. Side bending is the great untapped resource that most don’t know about. It’s the key. Side bending. We have something called the spinal engine because the spine is curved when you side bend, it creates rotation. Think about throwing a baseball without side bending (if you’re just rotating). So if you can’t side bend, you can’t have power. It’s actually bad for the spine to rotate without side bending. Hitting, throwing, any athletic movement, you have to bend to rotate with power. It’s the same for running and the same for walking.
So, I’m here. This is going to be our Step 1. Master this position. This will be challenging at first, you can cue the ground as necessary, you can use a little support on a wall, but you want to have this balance. It’s a figure four position where my foot is just close to the knee standing head over foot. Position (Step 2) looks like ‘this.’ I side bend, and I lift this foot as high as I can, and I’m driving this shoulder back and down, and this hip up and forward. So there’s a side bending that creates a powerful rotation. You want to think about brining your elbow into your back pocket so that you’re really hiking that foot high and driving your shoulder low (hip is up and forward, shoulders down and back). That’s your position 2. You want to keep your head level so it’s not ‘here,’ it’s ‘here.’ So I start in position 1, I demonstrate balance. I get to position 2 and demonstrate control and balance. Now, I step out exaggerating on a 45 degree angle, and I land with my head over my foot, and now position 3turns into position 1 on the other side. And it’s that unwinding the coil to this neutral position that gives me this tremendous power, and I’ve landed with balance.
Like I said before, most people when they walk, they don’t land in balance. It forces the body to compensate. Watch the best athletes in the world, like LeBron James. When he walks, he walks Head Over Foot. At any moment, he could stop, and he’s perfectly balanced. Why? Because he’s got just the right amount of side bend. You’ve all seen that saunter, right? Where someone is sauntering down. It’s super athletic. The trick is, you don’t want to be socially awkward, so you find the fine line where you can land Head Over Foot, and it looks normal [Proper Running Techniques].
Now, it’s easier to do running than it is walking. So, I’m going to show you how to apply this exercise. You basically want to get good at the exercise. I recommend 6-10 repetitions. So, if you’re going to do this exercise here, it would be one, two, go to 10. Do 10. And it’s best to travel. If you’re in a confined space, just simply turn around, so you might do your one, two, and then one, two, but you want to get about 10 reps. It’s a good number, and it’s doable. You can fit it into a very small unit of time. You can do it when you wake up, you can do it before bed, you can put it within your workout. Within an hour workout, you can do three sets of this. Very easily, very manageable.
So, after you finish your set of Head Over Foot technique, now you want to stride it out. You want to take a little bit of area, and you want to stride it out. And you just focus on every step that I take. I’m just going to land with my head over my foot. Head Over Foot, Head Over Foot. Make it your mantra, and you will walk stronger than ever before. You’ll run faster and more efficiently than ever before, and you’re going to reduce the amount of repetitive stress that your body has to endure in locomotion.
So, this is a baseline exercise that’s just body weight. Once you understand the principle, you need to side bend, and that lateral sway, that side to side motion, dipping shoulder, it’s absolutely essential to running your fastest. The degree of lateral sway is just dependent upon the width of the stride. So if I stride on the centerline, the head doesn’t move side to side. But I still have the shoulder side bending, because that’s what powers rotation. Remember, rotation without side bending is weak and dangerous.
Now, don’t make the mistake of trying to do too many other exercises that side bend. Holding dumbbells like ‘this’ and doing ‘this’ is a terrible exercise that will only hurt you. You never want to bend beyond the base. Here, I’m bending beyond my base. It’s not what I want. I want to be on my base, over my base, establish the new base, over the base. On, on, target.
So, like I said, do sets of 10 repetitions, as many as you can do. You can do this every single day. Read your own body. If it starts to get sore, take a day off. But as many reps as you can. Get very good at this exercise, and then stride out Head Over Foot. If you’re a runner, run consciously landing Head Over Foot for at least a portion of your run. Test it on a staircase. Go to a staircase, and walk the staircase landing Head Over Foot. Then walk the staircase not Head Over Foot. Square and plum, the way that some might teach you. “We want to be square.” No we don’t. You will notice a dramatic difference on a staircase where it’s just amplifying or magnifying the effect of the efficiency of Head Over Foot.
So, I hope I’ve inspired you to adopt the technique and learn it because every single step you take will be stronger as a result. Test it for yourself, master the movement, and tune in for more. There’s a lot coming with the Head Over Foot Technique.
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