Runner in the woods

What are body angles and why are they important for runners

One of the newest running metrics to become available from INCUS is called Body Angles. In order to load the kinetic chain in the most optimum way when running, the body needs to be positioned in the correct form. Incorrect positions of the body during running can cause issues of overstriding, wasted energy, and possible injuries. Expert running coach Lewis Moses explains the different types of body angles in running and how analysing this metric using your INCUS device could help you become a faster, more efficient runner who is less prone to injury.

What is the kinetic chain in running?

When running, it’s important to know that each part of your body affects another. The kinetic chain runs from your feet, through your knees and hips, up your back and to your shoulders. Each part of the kinetic chain plays an important role and the fastest most efficient runners will be those who have a strong and well positioned kinetic chain. This is why you may find that a hip or back injury is actually being caused by a problem in the foot, for example. 

Lewis explains, “If you have weakness within the chain, it can lead to problems elsewhere. This is why we talk a lot about ‘strengthening the whole chain’ instead of just one area, because other areas can overwork or overcompensate for weaker points in the body, which can lead to injuries.”

The Three Planes of Movement

In movement, there are three distinct planes of motion: Pitch, Roll, and Yaw. When applying this to running for the sake of analysis, we can equate Pitch to Body Lean - i.e. how far forward you lean (or not) when you run; Roll to Torso Rotation - i.e. how much your shoulders and chest move as you run; and Yaw to Lateral Sway - i.e. how much you move side to side through movement of the legs and hips as you run. 

These three metrics are the Body Angles that are analysed by your INCUS device and will help you make sure your kinetic chain is being loaded correctly and that your running form allows for the most efficient technique without leading to injury. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of each of these planes of movement in running and why it’s important to analyse them.

runner

Pitch - Body Lean

When we run, a slight amount of forward lean is desirable. However, studies have found that leaning too far forward can be detrimental for runners. When discussing the new INCUS metric Vertical Ratio, Lewis previously explained that practising ‘lean pose’ can be beneficial in improving running speed. However, leaning forward too much when running can cause problems. A recent study published in Human Movement Science found that leaning forward too far when running can increase the risk of developing overuse injuries.

Lewis explains, “Leaning forward too much is associated with poor trunk or core control and can be seen in runners particularly late on in endurance races. As they become tired, they lose this control, and it negatively affects their running style. If this happens, it could affect things such as their running economy, which will negatively impact their performance, leading to slower times.”

If you find this happens to you, monitoring and analysing your Pitch (Body Lean) with INCUS’ Body Angles metric could be hugely beneficial.

Roll - Torso Rotation

As we run, the spine naturally rotates in opposing directions. You may hear the term ‘counter rotation’ which refers to the hips and the torso rotating in opposite directions. Therefore, torso rotation is looking more at how the upper part of the body moves when we run. Lewis explains, “Torso rotation is linked to performance and injury. For example, better rotation is linked to a more efficient and even a longer running stride, limited rotation can contribute to injuries further down the chain and over-rotation can contribute to things such as pelvic drop, which again could lead to injuries further down the line.”

You can use the Roll aspect of the Body Angles metric on your INCUS device to identify if your torso is rotating too much or not enough. If you do find you need to make tweaks to improve, Lewis has some exercises you can try: 

“If it’s a case of improving the rotation of the upper back, mobility exercises and rotation exercises are great. For example, a basic forward lunge and rotating the hands out in front of the body will challenge the rotation in a good way and help to improve the range of movement. On the other hand, if you’re trying to limit the rotation, anti-rotation exercises will be more beneficial. You can perform anti-rotational core exercises such as shoulder taps, or use a resistance band to perform a pallof press - where you pull the band, from a fixed position, across and directly in front of the body and then press the band out in front of you.”

Runner wearing INCUS Nova

Yaw - Lateral Sway

The third and final plane of movement is Yaw, which relates to Lateral Sway in running. Think about how landing on your left foot and then your right foot repeatedly might make you sway from side to side as you run. Lewis explains, “too much lateral sway is linked to the pelvis dropping from side to side, which affects the upper body movement of the runner.”

Lewis goes on to explain, “If we go back to our kinetic chain, the reason this can have an impact on things such as injuries is because this movement could be putting excessive strain on other bones, muscles, tendons or ligaments. If this is the case, it’s likely that something will give, causing injury. If the pelvis is dropping on contact, we will have to use a lot of energy to correct this and to keep our momentum moving forwards in the right direction. This can make us less economical as runners, which could lead to slower running times or have a negative impact on performance.”

You will be able to see if you have too much Lateral Sway by watching video analysis of yourself running. But the best way to check is with the INCUS device, which can analyse your running stride on each side in real time. If you do find you have too much Lateral Sway, Lewis suggests ways to improve:

“Single leg strengthening exercises such as the single leg squat will help strengthen the chain down from the hip to the knee and ankle. Other running drills can also help with pelvic control, such as a switch drill, however I would firstly concentrate on improving the strength around the core/trunk area, as well as the glutes. Simple exercises such as; glute bridges, clams, and reverse clams can help with strengthening the glutes, while core exercises such as dead bugs, side planks and heel taps can help with core strength and trunk control.”

About the author: Alex Parren is a Freelance Health & Fitness writer as well as a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.

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