10 Running Form Exercises and Drills That Will Make You a Better Runner
Do you want to improve your running form? Wait no longer – we have compiled a comprehensive selection of running form exercises and drills with instructions and videos.
Good running form consists of different elements, so to find the best running form drill for your specific technique an online running form analysis is a great starting point.
Once you identified your personal improvement areas you can use these running form drills to achieve or maintain proper running form.
Exercise to Improve Step Rate (Cadence)
Increasing your step rate can be highly beneficial and help lower impact forces and improve running economy. For the rare case of a too high running cadence reducing step rate to the ideal range may improve running economy. Here is how to best increase your running cadence.
Run to a metronome
- Set a metronome to a 5-10% higher cadence than you currently are running at and then match that pace running.
- Start out by moving the arms in a running motion to match the beat.
- Then jog in place to match the beat
- Next run on a treadmill or on ground to match the beat.
So what is a good step rate?
Check the table below to find a target cadence to experiment with based on your “comfortable easy” and “hard” pace.
|Pace (>5K or more*)||Current “natural” step rate (>5K or more*)||Target step rate (>5K)|
|“Comfortable easy”||160-180||Increase by 5-10%|
|“Comfortable easy”||180-190||Increase by 5%|
|“Comfortable easy”||190+||May try decreasing by 5%|
|“Hard”||160-180||Increase by 5-10%|
|“Hard”||180-190||Increase by 5%|
|“Hard”||190+||Keep as is|
*. For 5k runs and shorter, 200+ is normal
4 Running Form Drills to Improve Overstriding or Under-striding
Overstriding happens if your foot lands too far in front of your body, under-striding if it lands too close to your body. (A Movaia run form analysis will tell you if that is the case).
Run with a metronome app
If you are overstriding use the metronome drill from above to increase cadence by 5-10%. If you are under-striding, which is much less common, decrease cadence by 5%
A foundational running form drill: sweeps and swings
Familiarize yourself with the proper gait cycle movements with the “Sweeps and Swing exercise”. This exercise reinforces the two key movements of the gait cycle – swinging and sweeping.
To perform the sweeps and swings drill,
- stand on one leg only and move the other leg through the alternating pattern of swinging and sweeping. Initially, a chair, fence, or other object may be used for balance.
- With your active foot, at the end of the sweep, strike the ground a little in front of the body and “paw” the foot along the ground until you achieve hip extension.
- Then flex the knee of the moving leg and begin swinging the leg forward.
Other great exercises that teach correct foot placement position are A-Skips and B-Skips.
The A-Skips running form drill
- Lift one leg to hip height so your thigh is parallel to the ground while skipping on the ball of your other foot.
- Keep your foot parallel to the ground, or slightly bend towards your shin, while raising the leg.
- Let the leg drop to hit the ground below you, close to your body with the ball of your foot.
- As your foot hits the ground, quickly raise your other leg while skipping on the leg that just landed. Repeat on alternative sides while moving forward and keeping the upper body straight.
- Focus on hitting the ground close to the body and creating a straight line from your ankle, to your hips to your head. Also pay attention to your arm movements which oppose your leg movements. I.e. as you raise your left foot your right arm swings forward.
- Find a good rhythm and focus on quick, crisp movements. Start with 30-50 meters /100- 150 feet of skips then “run it out” for the same distance, walk back to the start and repeat two to three times.
- Here is a video introduction to A-Skips
The B-Skips running form drill
B-skips are much like A-skips with one critical difference:
- Instead of dropping the leg straight back down you extend the foot straight in front of you and then emphasize the “paw back” of the foot.
- Then land on the ball of your feet and then move the foot back along the surface underneath your hips.
- Again make sure to “stack” your ankle, hips and head in a straight line.
Much like A-skips, B-skips raise awareness for proper posture, gait cycle and foot position and strengthen major running specific muscle groups (Hamstrings, Hip flexors, Glutes, Quadriceps, core muscles, calf muscles, tibialis anterior).
Strengthening these muscles makes it possible to sustain good running form but also helps with injury prevention. The repetition of this skills builds “muscle memories” , i.e. neuromuscular pathways thus improving coordination.
5 Running Form Drills to Improve Posture
Good posture means your ankle, hips, thorax and neck are stacked in a straight line. Use visualization and cues such as “being pulled by a rubber band attached to the top of your head”, “hips forward”, “look straight ahead, not down” before running.
Posture reset exercise
The posture reset exercise is a great way to start every run with good form by relaxing and aligning your body before a run.
To work on the full body strength needed for good posture try the following exercises:
The Power Arms running form drill targets the shoulder muscles, but also core muscles promoting good posture and balance.
- Stand on your left foot with your knee slightly flexed and with your right foot just off the ground.
- Hold a resistance cord, which is tied at hip height to a firm structure behind you, in your left hand, with the hand positioned next to the hip
- Push the hand with the resistance cord straight forward. Stop when your left elbow reaches yoru left hip. As you push forward, the opposite, right leg swings forward and upward to hip level.
- Return the left hand back to the left hip and sweep back the right leg.
- Repeat 10-15 reps for one set and switch to the other side.
Vertical bird dogs
Vertical bird dogs work all important stabilizing muscles we use in running by introducing a stability as well as a weight element.
- Stand on your left foot and hold a lightweight dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands hanging next to your body.
- Lift the right leg to waist level and at the same time raise the right hand, reaching up as far as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Keep hips and shoulders level and remain upright before gently lowering your hand and landing on the ball of your foot.
- Repeat on the other side.
You can modify this exercise by only having a weight in the hand that is not being raised and switching after 8-12 reps (instead of switching sides after every rep).
Prisoners high knee march
This exercise builds core strength in the trunk, quadriceps, hip flexors and promotes balance.
- Fold your hands behind your neck, without putting pressure on.
- Walk on the spot, bringing your knees up to waist height.
Calf raises build the gastrocnemius and soleus with are located at the back of your lower leg and protect your ankles and achilles tendons. They also help to extend your ankle and achieve that forward lean we are looking for when running.
- Stand with the balls of your feet on a step.
- Lift your heels up as far as you can.
- Slowly lower them until your heels are below the the step and below the balls of your feet.
Start on both your feet and progress to standing on only one foot at a time.
Exercises to Improve Foot Strike Pattern
While there is no conclusive scientific proof that one type of foot strike – heel strike, midfoot strike or forefoot strike is always better, there are situations where modifying the foot strike pattern can be beneficial. E.g. knee pain can be mitigated by moving from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike pattern whereas Achilles problems may subside if a forefoot striker “moves back” to mid-foot strike.
- Running with a metronome app and increasing cadence will help to go from a rearfoot to more of a midfoot / forefoot strike.
- Also the Swing and Sweeps exercise described above will help building awareness for the proper footstrike pattern.
- With the same focus on foot-landing also A-Skips and B-Skips help to improve the foot strike pattern.
Secret bonus tip: Getting shoes with a zero or low heel to toe drop also tends to move footstrike patterns towards mid to forefoot landing.
Integrating Running Form Drills into Your Run Training
Make time for running drills at least twice a week to see progress. You can do them as a stand alone workout or integrate them into the warmup for your run. If your run was not too demanding for you to execute the drills with good form adding the drills to the end of your workout is a hack some coaches recommend to speed up adaptation.
Slowly build the number of repetitions for each exercise and above all aim for consistency to see lasting changes in your running form. After consistently doing running form drills for 2-4 weeks consider a running form analysis to evaluate your progress. Movaia’s online running form analysis makes this easy and affordable and features a comprehensive library of exercises to improve your running form.