Fine Tune that Footstrike

I have no rhythm. Before I got married, I was the guy at weddings always waiting for the girl to get off the dance floor, so I could use words rather than dance moves to impress her. Dancing, or to be more broad, rhythm can be defined as any regular recurring motion. It’s basically an expression of timing. This timing is crucial in human movement; how quickly you can run at top speed, or increase bat velocity, or even approach faster to a maximal vertical jump. What if you could improve this rhythm and your sport movements at the same time? You can, just listen to yourself.

Probably the best rhythm example is hearing your footsteps when you sprint, or even your last 2 steps of an approach jump. Regardless of your sport, you should use a warm-up to fine tune your ground contacts almost like a musician with a guitar. For our athletes, we start with skips, particularly emphasizing the area of the foot that strikes against the ground, as shown below in the video.

Short, high pitch sounds come from contact more on the toes, which cause you to spend too little time on the ground. This quicker contact will allow more steps or quicker throws, but will prevent force from being sustained for a long period of time (see Sparta Point 11/3/10). On the other hand, dull, longer noises usually come from heel strikes, which force an athlete to slow down. This initial heel contact can prematurely stop the rotation of a swing or throw, just as easily as it can slow down a sprint.

Researchers from Ryukoku University in Japan videotaped 415 runners, gathering measurements of ground contact time for each runner. This study found a significant correlation between foot strike position and ground contact time: The average ground contact time for heel strikers was much slower than midfoot and forefoot strikers, indicating a braking effect. There was also a significant correlation between foot strike patterns and performance, with runners placing among the top 50 being almost twice as likely to be midfoot or forefoot strikers.

So use that warm-up, ideally skips, to develop the ideal footstrike on the mid foot, right at the ball of the foot. You’ll hear that rhythm by just listening to the ground, adjusting the noises as you warm-up to fine tune that footstrike.