Curve Running Complex Meets Simple
By Adarian Barr and Alysson Bodenbach
This is the third article contributed by Coach Adarian Barr and 400m NCAA runner Alysson Bodenbach. Follows on from the brilliant article on Toe Drag and Shoulder Rotation.
Proper sprint technique has become a highly debatable topic as new technology develops. Athletes are running faster than ever before, but can speed be attributed to something other than genetics? One topic that is often discussed amongst athletes and coaches alike is body position on the curve.
Most runners are taught to “lean into the curve” without any clear direction or support as to why this method is effective…or is it?
.You are not alone if you were taught to lean from your ankles, drop your left shoulder, run tall, and tilt your chin down until you reach the straightaway. It is not uncommon for an athlete to feel bombarded from all of these cues and experience instances of slipping or a loss of maximum potential in reference to stride length. As sprinters, the goal is to cover the most ground in the least amount of time.
If an athlete is not reaching their possible maximum stride length, how likely is it that they will reach their maximum potential?
Running the curve of a race does not need to be as complex as many coaches make it out to be. There is no need to cue an athlete with several different points to focus on, rather they should be able to focus on one or two and run the curve to their maximum capability. With that being said, running the curve comes down to one simple cue: squatting. Humans are comprised of joints and mobile hips for a reason. Squatting on the curve allows for increased mobility of the hip joints, allowing the runner to swivel in the direction they are trying to go. Greater hip mobility also allows the runner to step over the knee and drive/push around the curve. In regards to head position, there is no need for a special cue in addition to the squatting cue because it is already taken care of. When a runner squats on the curve their head is inclined to stay at neutral as a forward lean is created.
In the case of 400 meter runners, curve running is especially useful and practical. Setting up a race should go as follows: squat curves, stand up on the backstretch to increase leg turnover, and stand up almost to full extension on the homestretch. The runner will have better control of their body with less cues to focus on when they are trying to win a race.
So what exactly are the true benefits of squatting on the curve?
The biggest point we would like to make is in the case of stride length. The runner who covers the most ground in the shortest amount of time will win the race, so if a runner can make one simple change (squatting on the curve) instead of several changes (lean into the curve, chin down, dropping shoulder, running tall, and the list goes on) they should have a higher chance of success.
When it comes to running the curve the answer to the equation does not need to be complex by any means. Running is meant to be simple and with efficient cues it can be. Squatting on the curve has proven to be one of the easiest ways to increase stride length without really having to think, rather the work is done for you. New technology has allowed coaches and athletes to make the appropriate changes in their training, now it’s time to look at squatting as an old science with increased function. It’s time to open our eyes to something that can and will work for runners and coaches alike.