High Knee Skips
Skipping isn’t just a fun recess activity for 8-year-old schoolgirls; lifting your knees up high and covering a stretch of flat ground is a simple yet effective drill for anyone looking to increase his stride power and fine-tune his mechanics.
“Skipping forces you to be light on your feet and use explosive power while employing a bounding type of motion,” says Matt Valyo, a USAT Level II coach. “This will recruit more motor units and can also be used as an effective pre-run warm-up drill.”
So what’s the right way to skip? Valyo suggests starting off slowly: Walk before you can run. Begin by standing up as straight as possible and walking with an exaggerated knee lift. The idea is to drive your lead leg slightly past your waistline while toeing off on your back leg, which should be straight and always in contact with the ground. When you do it right, you should start to feel some fatigue in the hip flexors and even a bit in the calves. When you reach the point where you can skip-walk for 30 meters with picture-perfect form, slowly start picking up the pace.
“Form is the key factor here,” says Valyo. “It does you no good to rush through this drill. I have my athletes walk through it first and gradually progress to a run to make sure that they’re doing it properly.”
Valyo has his athletes perform three to five sets of this drill twice a week as part of a complete strengthening program during the base phase of training. He also has them use skipping as a way to loosen up before a key run workout, as the motion is very specific to running and gets the right muscles ready to tackle the task at hand.
“Skipping is simple and you don’t need anything fancy,” Valyo says. “You just do it.”