Why Coaching Knee Drive Does Not Work
Knee drive is a critical part of running but the overall thought process behind teaching knee drive is incorrect. Most people focus too much on “learning” knee drive rather than concentrating on the correct thought process to improve sprinting.
In this piece, I’ll explain why coaching knee drive is a myth and how to get faster.
I was able to improve my top speed consistently by following the method I’m going to elaborate on here.
Overall, it is important to get your knees to a certain height when sprinting but the actual methodology I follow is not to focus on that part exclusively.
Let’s take a deeper look at my thought process when I sprint and coach sprinting to understand what I mean.
Before diving deep into the phenomenon of why coaching knee drive is a myth, let’s first understand what is knee drive and why is it important.
What is Knee Drive in Sprinting and Why is it Important?
When you are sprinting your body follows a set of motions. The most important being when the foot contacts the ground because that is how the body generates the most force/momentum forward.
This is why having higher knee lift or knee height is important. The thought being if the knee lift is higher then the amount of force into the ground is more. However, this is not always the case..
Also must read: Top 10 Secrets To Improve Speed Immediately | Sprint Mechanics
Incorporating the Knee Drive Naturally
The focus when sprinting should not be to drive the knees up into a more vertical position but instead ability to pull the foot back underneath.
What ends up being more important than the height of the knees is the position of where the foot hits. (Foot lands underneath the hips)
The height of the rear foot will directly correlate to higher knee lift. (The goal is to maximize horizontal force over downward force)
The timing of the right knee and left knee is critical for max turnover speed. (Ex. When right leg touches down the left knee should be even or in front of right knee)
In order to improve timing and body position during foot contact the athlete should be aware of hip height, chest position and extension of the leg. When the leg is directly underneath the hips and shoulders with a limited amount of bend in the leg at landing then knee height is optimal.
The swing leg or foot off the ground should have a simultaneous forward knee drive and vertical knee bend (brings foot up towards the hip). This will allow time for the feet to come forward and knee to extend before striking the ground.
Check Out Our Blog On The Active Muscles When Sprinting
How Most Coaches Get the Knee Drive Wrong?
The biggest issue with coaching knee drive without properly queuing foot position or hip height is it leads to longer foot contact times and improper force production.
Overall I believe most coaches are correct in identifying an issue with knee lift, however the why/how it is being taught is usually where coaches get it wrong.
The reason is most coaches will say improving knee height will improve the length of the stride (most likely correct). However, if stride length improves while force production and foot contact time decrease then it did not help the movement as a whole.
Essentially the athlete got more distance per step and sacrificed too much time. This is why your best bet is to optimize feet contact position in relation to the hips as well as maximizing leg extension of the lead leg.
Knee Drive From Starting Position
The next topic to briefly mention is how knee drive starts and stride length during the start. The start is very unique and honestly there are many blog post coming when it comes to start mechanics. With that said, in order to build speed from the start the actions of the knees are critical.
A very simple explanation of the knees during the start
How To Apply More Force Into The Ground When Sprinting
Two Common Issues When Struggling With Knee Drive
Most people when struggling with knee drive tend to become very stiff in their hamstring (one or both) or in their lower-backs. This ruins the quality of their knee dive and affects their overall performance negatively.
The Force into the Ground
Many people are not able to generate enough force into the ground simply because their “coach” told them to generate that force when lifting their feet off the ground. This opposite motion destroys a knee drive rather than improving it.
As someone who has first-hand experience at this, I know the body mechanics at work in this process and I assure you that the force should go into the ground for a knee drive and not the other way round.
How to Improve Your Knee Drive (How to Get Faster?)
To improve your knee drive you don’t want to go for any strengthening exercises (as commonly suggested). The only thing I’ll recommend is to get your foot up and through as you are driving that foot underneath you.
The thing you would want to avoid is focussing on trying to get your knee up in the motion. This causes a negative cycle overall in your sprint.
I hope I was able to convey the process to you. If you want to see this entire process, watch this video to get a clearer picture.
You may also want to check out: How To Get A More Explosive First Step
Watch Full Video Here
I hope you found this information to be a valuable addition to your knowledge about sprinting. Now you know why coaching knee drive is a myth. If you have any questions or something important to say, please leave a comment below.
Our Simple Speed Coaching Process To Help You Get Faster
STEP 1. SEND IN VIDEO OF YOUR SPRINT VIDEO
This is easy we send you a video to explain what angles to send and how to upload onto our server quickly and easily. You will be able to upload right from your computer or smart device.
STEP 2. RECEIVE SPEED COACHING BREAKDOWN OR ZOOM CALL
Within 24 hours you will get a detailed email back that goes over all the critical details of your running form. This will include drills and exercises to help you improve. If you have any questions we can always schedule a call to make sure everything is clear and concise.
STEP 3. FOLLOW THE SPEED PROGRAM AND MAKE THE CHANGE
Now we will make everything as easy as possible for you to be able to make tremendous improvement in your mechanics. Our speed training programs have tons of drills and exercise to help you improve. However, you must DO THE WORK. YOU WILL GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN.