What’s in Phase 5
Phase five takes everything that we’ve been working on in the last several phases and brings them together in a more practical running movement. It does this with some simple plyometric drills and some running cues. While these drills and cues vary slightly throughout the phase, the two key ones are:
- Plyometric Knee Lift. In this drill, we do 100 plyometric knee lifts, first leaning into a wall and later just doing the same motion vertically. There is one key cue that James from Kinetic Revolution recommends– as shown in the photo at the right, bend your knee a lot so your foot runs parallel to your stance leg. You can think of this as more like a “butt kick” drill– as if you are bending your hip to bring your knee up as high as possible while simultaneously bending your knee to pull your heel as close to the butt as possible. James is quick to distinguish “butt kicks” from “butt flicks”– where the knees are low and you kick your butt just with movement from bending at your knees. One other key point to this drill is making sure to keep a good tight core. I would add that that also means trying to keep a nice posterior pelvic tilt.
- Elbows Back Running Cue. This cue is designed to prevent excessive rotation in the transverse (overhead) plane. Great runners don’t swivel excessively at the shoulders and instead use their arm swing to compensate for the huge leg swing that they are getting. Of course, this has limitations– at a certain point of speed in distance running, the shoulders definitely come into it as even great runners try to get a few extra millimeters in each stride, but this cue is designed to help you delay getting to that point as much as possible. That’s a very good thing– better to work at gaining speed in your stronger, foundation movements instead of relying on desperation. So the cue is really quite simple. You just have to think about the movement of your elbows pulling straight back during your running while minimizing rotation in the shoulders.
What Was Most Useful for Me
As I’ve always thought about shoulder rotation since my high school coach scolded me about it 35 years ago, I found the elbows back cue a great validation of the way that I’ve been trying to run. It reminds us to keep the movement “forward-and-back” and not “side-to-side.” Whether its true or not, I’ve always thought of this as free speed– focus your energy in the direction that you are going (and not in the direction that you’re not going) and you’ll get there a lot faster.
The plyometric knee lift was also fantastic. I’ve you’ve read any of my earlier updates on my progress with the 30-day challenge, you’ll notice that I’ve been obsessed with hip flexors. My physical therapist harps on me about my hip flexors. I sit all day so I worry about shortened hip flexors. And, because the cross extensor reflex suggests that hip flexors and glutes work together, I wonder if my hip flexors might be partially to blame for my inactive glutes.
I mentioned in my previous posts that I think the best way to do any set of exercises is to do them immediately before a run. While this is important in strength exercises, it’s even more important with plyometric exercises– particularly running.
What Else I Added
One other addition that I’ve been incorporating into the routine is to work on my hip flexors with a resistance band. As I discussed in my last update on the 30-Day Challenge, this exercise is great as an upright marching movement. Now unlike the picture shown at the right, I try to keep the lifting foot moving alongside the straight (weight-supporting) leg. This can be a little tricky because the band may tend to slip off your raised foot unless you’ve got great range of motion in your ankle. This seems to a great exercise to do right before the rapid-fire plyometric knee lift because you can really reinforce the movement patterns and get the proper muscles firing. To prevent all that hip flexor activity from tightening up my already overly tight hip flexors, I also want to do the good set of stretches afterwards.
So here’s my modified version of the Phase 5 routine:
- Marching Hip Flexor Exercise with Resistance Band. See above together with my week four post. This exercise is done at a slow marching tempo so you can really focus on (1) good ab and glute engagement to give yourself a nice posterior pelvic tilt, (2) keeping the lifting foot moving alongside the supporting leg, and (3) keeping the straight leg fully extended an straight at the knee. As you do this, your glutes and hip flexors should light up like a Christmas tree.
- Plyometric Knee Lift. One hundred times, as prescribed by phase 5 of the program.
- Hip Flexor Stretch. This stretch is from Phase 1 of the 30-day challenge. It’s mostly a stretch, but also gets the hip flexors and glutes working together in a slightly different way that’s also critical to running.
- Elbows Back Running Cue, etc. Focus on the other cues, as prescribed by phase 5 of the program.
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