Running Drills: Modified Butt Kicks

by Jonathan Ide-Don, PT, DPT, OCS

The primary goals of this exercise:

  1. Reinforce proper running posture dynamically as you switch from one foot to the other

  2. Teach proper pulling technique of the heel straight up to the ischial tuberosity (sit bone)

  3. Improve endurance, strength, and speed of hamstring contraction in the context of running

This exercise is a slight modification of the traditional butt kick exercise.  The primary modification of this exercise is the cue of how the runner pulls the foot up off the ground.  In traditional butt kick exercise, the runner focuses on keeping both thighs vertical, and firing the hamstrings to lift the foot up in an arc behind them to kick their buttocks.  In the modified butt kicker, the runner focuses on firing the hamstring and lifting the heel of the foot straight up in a vertical line to their ischial tuberosity (ie. sit bone).

Notice in the video how the knee comes slightly forward relative to the body, rather than keeping the thigh vertical and the knee pointing straight down at the ground.

How:

Start by standing in tall posture with feet hip width apart, knees soft and pushed out to the side, elbows bent 90 degrees, and eyes straight ahead.  Imagine there is a rubber band connecting from the heel of your foot straight up to your ischial tuberosity (your sit bone).  Fire your hamstring and quickly pull your heel in a straight line vertically up to your sit bone.  Then, fire the hamstring on your other leg to quickly pull your other heel up to your other sit bone.

When you lift your other heel, let your other foot fall passively to the ground and land soft and relaxed on the ground.

Start with a slow rhythm, quickly pulling one heel up, pausing briefly, finding your balance, then quickly lifting your other heel up.  Once you feel comfortable with the quick pulling of the heel, then you can speed up the rhythm.  Eventually the rhythm should match your running rhythm with a quick turnover.  The exercise eventually turns into running in place.

COMMON MISTAKES

  1. Keeping thighs vertical to ground and kicking heel up in an arc behind you
  2. Jumping off the ground when switching feet
  3. Flexing the low back and mid back forward as you pull the heel up
  4. Landing loudly, stomping your foot on the ground when switching feet
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