5 Beginner Running Drills to Improve Your Running Form

Running drills are a fundamental tool that helps improve your form, making your running more effective and efficient.

It’s important to mention that improving your form has nothing to do with having a bad or good running form; each runner is unique. It’s about becoming a more efficient runner and improving your personal running technique so you can run faster with less effort.

For many beginning distance runners, the focus is often on building endurance and adding mileage. While that is important, adding the following running form drills into your routine can have a tremendous positive impact on your running, as you are setting strong foundations for the future.

By practicing these drills, you not only enhance your ability to run faster but also minimize the risk of injuries.

How to Add Running Drills to Your Training Program

Incorporating running drills into your training routine doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. It is recommended to perform these drills during warm-ups, as well as on days when you have easy runs or speed sessions. This approach helps prepare your muscles for the run, enhances your focus, and aids in recovery afterward. Aim to perform running drills two to three times a week, focusing on drills that enhance posture, balance, and leg movement.

Choose a flat and open area such as a running track or a quiet street where you can run without interruptions. Begin with a few minutes of easy jogging to warm up your body. Then, introduce short bursts of each drill, ideally 20-30 seconds per exercise, followed by a similar duration of rest or light jogging. As you become more comfortable with the drills, gradually increase the intensity and duration to continue challenging your body and improving your form.

What Are the Best Running Drills to Run Faster?

Certain drills stand out for their effectiveness in enhancing your running speed and improving your form. Each drill targets different aspects of running mechanics, from coordination to power development. Here are some of the best running drills that are particularly beneficial for those looking to increase their pace:

  • A Skips – These help develop power and rhythm in your leg movements.

  • B Skips – Extended from A Skips, these focus on leg extension and improving foot strike efficiency.

  • Carioca (or Grapevines) – Great for improving agility and hip flexibility.

  • Bounding – These emphasize lengthening your stride and increasing leg strength.

  • Butt Kicks – Aimed at increasing the rate of knee lift and improving your hamstring flexibility.

Each of these drills will be explored in detail in the following sections, giving you specific insights on how to perform them and how they benefit your running.

Skip with high knees (A skips)

A Skip is a dynamic running drill designed to improve your knee lift, rhythm, and coordination, all of which are crucial for efficient running. Here’s how to perform A Skips properly:

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Low Knee Lift: Not raising the knees high enough reduces the effectiveness of the drill. Aim to get your thigh parallel to the ground.

  • Poor Arm Coordination: Disorganized arm movements can throw off your balance and rhythm. Keep your arms active but controlled.

  • Landing Heavily: Landing hard on your feet can lead to undue stress on your joints. Aim for light, quick touches to the ground.

Tips for Success:

  • Start slowly to focus on good form before increasing your speed.

  • Keep your core engaged throughout the drill to maintain stability and posture.

  • Incorporate A Skips into your warm-up routine to get the most benefit.

Performing A Skips regularly will help you develop the muscle memory and technique needed for effective high-knee running, which translates directly into improved running performance.

“B” skips

B Skips are an advanced variation of A Skips, designed to enhance leg extension and improve the mechanics of your foot strike, which is crucial for efficient running form and fast running. Here’s how you can perform B Skips effectively:

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Incomplete straight leg: Failing to fully extend the leg reduces the effectiveness of the drill. Ensure you extend fully before snapping the leg down.

  • Inconsistent Rhythm: Losing the rhythm can disrupt the efficiency of the movement. Focus on keeping a steady, rhythmic pattern.

  • Heavy Landing: Avoid landing heavily on your feet. Aim for quick, light touches to minimize impact on your joints.

Tips for Success:

  • Practice A Skips proficiently before attempting B Skips to build a solid foundation of coordination and rhythm.

  • Engage your core throughout the drill to maintain stability and control.

  • Use B Skips as part of your warm-up to activate the muscles and tendons used in running.

Incorporating B Skips into your training regimen will not only improve your leg mechanics and foot strike but also contribute to a more powerful and efficient running stride.

Carioca, or Grapevine

Carioca, also known as Grapevines, is a dynamic running drill that enhances lateral agility, hip flexibility, and coordination. This exercise is particularly beneficial for runners as it helps improve multi-directional movement and balance. Here’s how to properly perform the Carioca drill:

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Poor Upper Body Posture: Avoid slumping or leaning too far forward. Keep your torso upright and your head up to maintain balance.

  • Over-rotation: While hip flexibility is important, too much rotation can lead to loss of balance. Rotate just enough to allow leg crossing.

  • Lack of Coordination: This drill requires coordination. If you find it challenging, slow down the pace until you gain more control over the movements.

Tips for Success:

  • Begin slowly to master the technique before increasing your speed.

  • Ensure to perform the drill in both directions to develop agility and flexibility evenly on both sides.

  • Regular practice of Carioca can significantly improve your running efficiency by developing better control over your lateral movements.

Incorporating Carioca into your regular training will help you develop better control over your body movements, which is beneficial not just for running but for overall athletic performance.

Butt Kicks (heel to butt)

Butt Kicks, or Heel to Butt exercises, are a popular running drill designed to improve the flexibility of your hamstrings and enhance the speed of your knee lift when running. This drill mimics the natural motion of your leg when running at a fast pace, making it an essential component of a runner’s training regimen. Here’s how to properly perform Butt Kicks:

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Low Heel Lift: Failing to bring the heel close enough to the buttocks reduces the effectiveness of the exercise in engaging the hamstrings.

  • Forward Knees: Allowing the knees to come up forward turns the drill into a high-knee run, which shifts the focus away from the hamstrings.

  • Heavy Foot Strikes: Landing too hard can lead to unnecessary stress on the feet and legs. Aim for light, quick touches.

Tips for Success:

  • Focus on the quality of each kick rather than the speed initially. Once your form is correct, gradually increase your pace.

  • Engage your core throughout the drill to help maintain an upright posture.

  • Regularly including Butt Kicks in your warm-up or cool-down routine can greatly improve your hamstring flexibility and running form.

Butt Kicks are an excellent way to prepare your legs for the demands of faster running by improving hamstring strength and flexibility. They are also a great way to add variety to your training and can help prevent injuries by ensuring your hamstrings are properly warmed up before intense workouts.

Bounding Drills

Bounding drills, or power skips, are essential to build strength, develop power, improve stride length, and enhance overall running efficiency. These drills emphasize explosive leg movements, which help to increase your running speed and power. Here’s how to correctly perform bounding:

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Poor Posture: Leaning too far forward can lead to balance issues and reduces the effectiveness of the drill. Keep your torso upright during each bound.

  • Inconsistent Effort: Each bound should be performed with maximum effort and intention. Failing to maintain intensity can limit the benefits of the exercise.

  • Overstriding: Avoid stretching your legs too far forward, which can lead to inefficient technique and increased stress on your joints.

Tips for Success:

  • Warm up thoroughly before starting bounding drills to prevent injuries.

  • Focus on the quality of each bound rather than the quantity. Ensure each movement is explosive and controlled.

  • Incorporate bounding into your training regimen gradually to build muscle strength and adapt to the high impact of the exercise.

Bounding drills are highly effective for increasing the power and efficiency of your running stride. Regular practice will help you develop the ability to run faster and with more power, significantly enhancing your overall athletic performance.

Watch all the running form drills on video!

Here are a couple of videos with great demonstrations and explanations of how to perform these running drills.

Don’t worry if you can’t nail the form at first; it takes practice, but I assure you it’s worth the effort. In just a few weeks, you will start to feel the difference in how the drills start to flow, and your running form will improve.

As always, consistency is key. You will only be wasting your time if you do it two or three times and then stop. Stick to a routine.

Improve your Running Form with Drills

Running drills are a vital component of any runner’s training regimen, especially for beginners aiming to enhance their running form and speed. By incorporating exercises such you can significantly improve your running form. Each of these drills targets specific aspects of running mechanics, helping you to run more efficiently and effectively while reducing the risk of injury.

Over time, these drills will not only help you achieve faster speeds but also ensure that your running journey is enjoyable and sustainable. Keep pushing your limits, and enjoy the rewards of improved performance and endurance.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.