There’s a lot of “info” circulating around right now about the need to maintain forward lean while running. Techniques like Chi Running, Pose Method, Evolution Running and other running coaches who are telling people to slightly lean forward when they run, because “when you lean forward, gravity will assist you by pulling you forward.”
But is this true? Amby Burfoot, a former Boston Marahton winner and former editor of Runners world, just wrote an article titled “Does Leaning Forward Help You Run More Efficiently by Letting Gravity Do Some of the Work?” Amby asked this question to 3 experts, Physicist Michael Tammaro, Ph.D., at the University of Rhode Island and a 15-time marathoner with a PR of 2:49; Steve Magness, who has a master’s degree in exercise science and works as assistant coach to Alberto Salazar at Nike’s Oregon Project; and biomechanist Irene Davis, Ph.D., director of the new National Running Center at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.
All agreed: “gravity can do nothing to improve your running efficiency on a flat surface. That’s because gravity provides no horizontal force; it simply pulls you back down to the earth.”
Tammaro explained:”At the start, the sprinters are leaning forward because they’re accelerating. But after about 30 meters, their speed doesn’t change much, so they stop leaning. If leaning forward with gravity made them faster and more efficient, they’d keep leaning all the way, wouldn’t they?”
So don’t lean forward, right? Not so fast. All three experts also favored a slight forward lean while running.” What?! They all go on to give their opinions, such as Steve Magnuss:”It’s more about correct body position than a lean per se. You want to make sure you aren’t arching your back, and sticking your butt out. I emphasize a very slight forward lean from the ground, not a bending at the waist.”
However, to me, that’s where the problem lies. When you tell someone to slightly lean forward, they have trouble NOT bending from the waist. In my experience, when people come into the office for a gait analysis, the ones that are bent forward at the waist tell me they read that leaning forward was good, so that’s what they’re trying to do. There is a serious disconnect between what they read and the way they execute it. Most people will lean forward from the waist, not the ankles. Partly this is due to weak gluteal muscles that can’t hold the posture during midstance and partly due to thinking they are doing something, but not executing it properly.
So my advice? Just run with a vertical posture and you’ll be fine!
Kevin Maggs, DC
Active Sport & Spinal