For runners, the uphill battle may seem more difficult on your body than the downward descent. But what most don’t realize is that downhill running actually requires the use of more diverse muscle groups. Unlike weight lifting and focusing on separate muscle groups to gain strength and power, hill running combines the body’s effort to fight gravity with your hip flexors, gluteus, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, ankles and feet. Follow these simple to enhance your downhill running form, reduce injury and increase fast-twitch muscle fibers for more power and agility when heading downhill.
The force of gravity will naturally pull you downwards. Make sure you bend at the hips and don’t lean forwards too much or backward to compensate. This will cause you to increase lower back strain and pain.
When it comes to downhill running head position is key. Your head and chin should be upright in a neutral position like you have a grapefruit under your chin. You can look downhill but not straight down at your feet. Looking too sharply down can cause your flexor muscles like your hips and glutes to deactivate and increase your risk of falling. So make sure and spot an area in the distance that keeps your head at a level position.
The hard impact from breaking your speed can have damaging effects on your legs and joints and can lead to injury in the knees and shins. Try to move your stride in a circular motion. Since gravity is pulling you downward you don’t have to engage your glutes and hamstrings as much so focus on your foot placement and keep a good rhythm to your stride. Keeping good downhill running form is very important to have a successful and injury free run.
With an extended, elongated stride you can reduce the pressure on your joints and hips. Try to keep your foot contact as minimal as possible. Keep your foot strike mid to forefoot and spring off your steps. Don’t use your heel as a break and that can lead to injury in your back and shin splints.
Your downhill pace will differ from when you are running on flat ground. Resist the urge to go full speed or to hold back too much. Slightly quicken your pace and focus on your foot placement while using your arms to help you balance. Depending on how steep the decline is you can even let your arms flail to the side slightly to give more control.
Another key to downhill running is to slow down your breath and engage your core. Just like all other parts of your run, you need to develop a smooth breathing pattern. For downhill running, you can focus on longer periods of exhaling since your physical exertion won’t be as high as when you are climbing. It will help you gain more control and optimize your run.
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