Running drills are great for improving your running form because they not only teach the body’s joints to be in the right place at the right time, but they also improve running efficiency and coordination. So what about a very common running form drill known as the “butt kicks” drill?
The “butt kicks” warm-up running form drill has been used for many years by PE teachers and coaches of all levels. But, is it still a good running mechanic drill? Let’s ask a better question two different ways. What is the “butt kicks” drill teaching my body? Or…What do “butt kicks” do?
Biomechanical analysis of the butt kicks drill
When an athlete performs the butt kicks drill, their goal is to kick their own butts…literally. When the athlete does this the foot is making contact with their butt and then as the knee is driven forward, the foot follows the knee and eventually makes its way in front and then underneath the body to make contact with the ground. I hope by now you are asking yourself…Is the foot really supposed to be behind the athlete’s butt when they run? The answer is no. Keeping your feet behind your butt does not improve your running form and efficiency. In fact, it does the exact opposite.
Negative impact the butt kicks drill has on the recovery phase of your running stride
When an athlete makes contact with the ground they are in what is known as the loading phase, landing phase, support phase, or touchdown phase. When the athlete’s foot leaves the ground it is known as the recovery phase. When an athlete performs the butt kicks drill they are teaching the body’s recovery phase to place the foot behind the butt.
Realistically, the last thing an athlete wants to do is to teach their body to run with a longer recovery phase by keeping their feet behind their butt with an old outdated running drill. Doing butt kicks is an inefficient motion that a runner or sprinter doesn’t need and can disastrously teach athlete’s to place their feet where they don’t belong…behind the butt.
Negative impact the butt kicks drill has on hip flexors, quad muscles, and the position of the knee when running
When an athlete performs the butt kicks drill they not only teach the athlete bad recovery phase form as mentioned earlier, but they also teach the body to be in a position that puts a lot of strain on the hip flexors and quadriceps. The next time you see someone doing the butt kicks drill, just watch and look for where their knee is when the foot makes contact with their butt. It’s pointing downward!
The problem with the butt kicks drills is that it teaches athletes to point their knee downward and puts more stress on the hip flexors and quad muscles when they drive the knee and foot forward while running. This is where a lot of hip flexor and quad muscle strains come from. Not from the running drill itself, but from running or sprinting with the running form that the athlete has taught themselves by doing the butt kicks drill over and over and over again.
Where are the feet supposed to be in the recovery phase?
When an athlete is either running or sprinting, the goal is to maintain good running or sprinting mechanics so the athlete wastes as little energy as possible. When running or sprinting, the athlete’s foot leaves the ground and initiates the recovery phase. The goal during the recovery phase is to get the knee to drive forward with the foot following underneath the hips/butt rather than behind. Keeping the feet under the hips/butt will put the knee and foot in a position that creates less stress on the hip flexors and quadriceps while improve running mechanics.
What is the best running form drill to improve the recovery phase and replace the butt kicks drill?
By now I know what you are thinking. What is the alternative to the butt kicks running drill? The replacement is known as the high knee butt kicks drill. The difference is that the athlete will drive the knees high and in front of the body while their heels make contact under the hips/butt rather than behind. Remember, this is done while the athlete is keeping their knees high.
Comparing the old with the new
When athletes performed the traditional butt kicks drill their knees were pointing downward and the feet were behind the hips/butt thus promoting a longer recovery phase all while teaching their running and sprinting form to put more strain on their hip flexors and quadriceps.
When athletes performed the high knee butt kicks running drill, their knees were high and in front of the body and their feet were under the hips/butt. By doing the high knee butt kicks, the athlete teaches the body a more natural and efficient running form pattern and promotes improved running mechanics.