One of the most important yet simple and thus overlooked and undervalued aspects of Pose Running is the springness position, aka the S-stance. So it comes as no surprise when you see someone doing the ‘figure 4’ aka the Running Pose while standing on a completely straight leg with a locked knee.
The Springness Position, aka the S-stance, aka the Running Pose is a position of readiness – your joints unlocked and your body ready to move in any direction at a moment’s notice. This is why this position is the foundational point and also the position that most of the Pose technique drills start from.
Here’s a video clip from our online course “Beginner’s Guide to Pose Running”. It’s very simple, practice along or whenever you’re able. Get in the habit of getting into the s-stance and staying relaxed when you’re drilling or warming up or training, etc.
The S-like shape of the Running Pose was conceived to emulate the rear legs (bent in all joints) of animals who can run both fast and far.
Look at these photos demonstrating a variety of animals at speed. In each case, the rear legs are bent in all joints. There is no full extension, no complete unbending in the joints. This is completely natural running. And it merits further study to understand its implications for human movement.
The Benefit: Resilience
The principal asset of the S-like stance is that it facilitates optimum muscular elasticity. Elasticity is the ability of muscles to perform work, specifically to contract rapidly after an immediately prior extension. Nature’s design for running, the S-like stance, keeps all the connective tissue – muscles, tendons and ligaments – in a resilient, elastic state. Connective tissue that is not stretched to the limit remains supple and able to work efficiently.
Here’s a test you can perform at home with a dog or cat. First, try to stretch one of their rear legs to a fully straightened position. It’s virtually impossible. Nature has designed these legs to remain bent, keeping everything nice and relaxed.
Then, dig your fingertips into the thigh muscle of the animal. You might expect to feel a very hard muscle and be growled at by animal in pain. Instead you’ll
receive an impassive stare and feel very pliable muscle tissue. You can actually press all the way to the bone without causing any discomfort to the animal whatsoever.
It’s funny, but we are conditioned by the media to think of “rockhard” muscles as representing the ultimate in strength when in fact the opposite is true. The muscle that is the supplest and most elastic is the one capable of performing efficient work. Conversely, a rock hard muscle is laced with scar tissue and is too stiff to work efficiently.
The Benefit: Maneuverability
While we still have the dog or cat around, we can take note of yet another feature of nature’s running design – no heels. Dogs, cats and other animals don’t strike the ground with their heels because they don’t have them. Natural selection has forced them to run on the front part of the foot.
In the same fashion, in the Running Pose the runner is supported on the ball of the foot, with the leg bent in all joints (especially the knee joint) and the heel slightly above the support or lightly touching it. Most importantly, the weight is always kept on the ball of the foot. The Running Pose is lifted directly from nature and maintains all the connective tissue in a state of optimal preparedness to perform efficient work.
Please don’t confuse this with the directive to run on your toes. The emphasis here is on keeping your bodyweight focused on the front part of your foot where the heel operates at its own discretion and acts as a balancing support when necessary by also bearing some of the weight when needed.
Your ability to maintain the s-shape is especially important in sports where there are sudden twists and sharp turns, and zigzagging going on.
Benefit: Reduced Energy Expenditures
When standing, or going about daily tasks, notice how locking joints puts more stress on you compared to when you keep your joints slightly bent at all times (notice, if you bend your knees too much you will experience the opposite effect). While running, for example, when you remain is the pose as you change support from one foot to the next, you maximize the use of your muscular elasticity and resilience and thus reduce your energy expenditures. In fact, a 1964 study indicated that mechanical efficiency of running increased up to 50%, due to contributions from elastic storage and return of energy.
You must coordinate your muscles into an integral system to the point where it feels absolutely natural. That takes time, focus and effort but obviously it is worth it.
Benefit: Better Timing
Another beneficial aspect of the compactness and elasticity of the s-shape is its natural facilitation of better timing. Timing is everything. Just ask a sprinter that started moving out of the blocks a fraction of a second too soon, or an acrobat that was off by just a tiny bit. Similarly, correct timing in movement, and as part of running technique specifically, allows for your body to operate like a well oiled perfect machine in sync not just internally but also externally, with the environment. Timely pull of the foot makes running easier and also helps avoid a whole lot of injuries.