Video Article

In this series on improving running performance, Brian MacKenzie and Doug Katona of CrossFit Endurance demonstrate drills utilizing the Pose Method of running.

In this segment, MacKenzie identifies problems he commonly sees with the running stride and how to fix them. He demonstrates a hamstring-activation technique he uses to cue athletes to pull with the hamstring and not the hip flexors.

“What we want to avoid is the hip flexors getting involved because it’s a smaller muscle group that is just going to break us down a lot quicker,” MacKenzie says. “You’ll see that using those hamstrings—a larger muscle group vs. using a smaller muscle group—is not going to require much energy from you.”

The technique MacKenzie uses is to have the athlete resist a downward push to his raised leg while in a figure-four Pose posture. Repeat for a set of five with each leg. Katona demonstrates how effective this technique is for improving his Pose running.

5min 13sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: The Basics of Pose Running Techniques by Brian MacKenzie, published Dec. 1, 2007.

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25 Comments on “Running Drills With Brian MacKenzie: Part 2”


wrote …

Holy crap, after two years I think I finally get what this Pose stuff is all about. Never mind all the Romanov videos; as good as they are, they're awfully philosophical. Use your hamstrings because your hip flexors are small and tire quicker. Duh.

Thanks Bmac!


wrote …

I always noticed that when I slow down I naturally pull less. It feels very unnatural to force the pull when at say


wrote …

These are great vids and Bmac is the man, but running the incorrect way still looks natural and more comfortable. In the vids running the correct way looks mechanical and forced. Could you guys do a vid that has the technique down and looks natural and comfortable so we can see how it looks. I don't doubt it works I just haven't seen anyone who does it fluidly, yet. I am a visual person. Thanks


wrote …

There is an obvious flaw in the video. The hamstrings work to extend the hip and flex the knee. You have to use the hip flexors. It is impossible to flex your hip (aka moving from toe off (behind you) to the pose "4" with the knee in front) by only using your hamstring.

You can rely on the hip flexors less, but you can't not use them.


wrote …

is there anyway we can do this drill if we dont have a partner to act as our hamstring activator?

perhaps a band?

either way good stuff. im always looking to improve my running technique. keep posting more drills :)


Steven Noseworthy wrote …

I agree with you Matt and am wondering if I am missing something in the translation from BMac's description.

If hip flexion is occurring (which it is) then hip flexors must be engaged.

Perhaps the answer lies in this....?
1. Hip flexors are engaged with the foot closer to the center of the body (not "left behind" as BMac describes) which means they are pulling from a submaximally stretched position and therefore offering submaximal power output. It also means they have a shoter range of motion to accomplish in hip flexion to get the knee to the "4" position.
2. Powerful and rapid engagement of the hamstrings to flex the knee shortens the lever-arm of the leg that the hip flexors have to act upon, thereby decreasing the total load on the hip flexors

In essence the hip flexors are moving a smaller load over shorter distances and therefore will fatigue to a lesser degree and endure longer.

Any comments?


replied to comment from Steven Noseworthy

I was wondering the same thing as both of you guys. Brian, would you mind delving into this a bit more? I am confused as to how to disengage the hip flexors while having hip flexion. I know that for me this is a huge problem as my hip flexors tire before anything else on longer runs.

One thing that I have noticed in practice is that when I get what feels like a good hamstring pull, the movement becomes a cyclical feeling and the top part of the movement (when the knee comes up and forward) feels like it is moving with momentum rather than being forced by muscles.




wrote …

Agree with 4,6 & 7. There has to be some hip engagement. Albeit it to a lesser degree. I'm guessing B-Mac isn't really saying that there will not be any engaging of the hip flexor, but that stressing to engage the hamstring is just more of a cue to take your mind off hip engagement and direct your attention more to hamstring engagement and shortening the lever. This is what Romanov goes into about perception. If we can perceive something happening, it has a better chance ot actually taking place. This Pose stuff is alot more mental than we probably think. :)


Brian MacKenzie wrote …

@ Matt/Steven/Ryan.... Steven has a GREAT explanation of this. The fact is MOST people rely on their hip flexors, even at high levels of running (usually longer distance runners). Our bodies work as an integral unit and therefore everything is working together, but its when the focus weighs on the smaller muscle groups we run into problems. Roughly 75% of the work in running is the hamstrings, that leaves the rest of the body to make up for the other 25%. This is also at the highest level, but something we should all be looking to get too. Initiating or using the hip flexors too much in running leads to a lagging foot/trailing foot and we end up working far to hard, usually from a broken position. Hope that helps. Like I said Steven has a great explanation of this.

@james... yes, use a band or some form of resistance.


wrote …


Quick question. I'm learning Pose from both your site/journal entries and from Dr. Romanov's book. In part 1 of this series (and as mentioned in Dr. Romanov's book) you say - if you're just shuffling along, you're not running and not doing Pose. I can maintain descent form/speed for a shorter distance (400M) distances form breaks and I begin to shuffle along.

So, as I'm learning Pose and doing runs in my WOD, would you recommend breaking the run into several shorter sprints rather than one long shuffling "jog"?

I was thinking, for a 400M run, I'd do 3 X 100M with 15 second breaks between.

Of coarse I'm trying to work on Pose aside from my WODs.




wrote …

That should be - I can maintain descent form/speed for a shorter distance (less than 200M) but for longer distances (greater than 400M) my form break...


wrote …



wrote …

Great video and great discussion. Answered my questions and gives me something to practice for a month or so.


wrote …

Comments 3, 11 and 12 raise an ongoing issue for me. If, the Pose method is so efficient, why can't people maintain form over distance without greatly improving their conditioning, especially since larger muscle groups are doing the work?

Scott (nos. 11 and 12) seems to suggest that he could maintain a faster pace for a longer time with a non-Pose running approach. I understand that as one gets more comfortable with the different technique some efficiency would be gained, but it does not seem proportional to me. Also, why shouldn't one be able to maintain a slower pace using the same, Pose, method? MacKenzie says that is not really running, but does not tell why it is not running nor why it cannot be done.

I have read the book, have Romanov's video (it is terrible), attended a full-day workshop by a Pose-certified instructor, and a couple months later took 3 one hour private sessions over a month period with another Pose-certified instructor, so this is not totally foreign to me.

Consistent with other comments, above, I watched the video several times and could not really see any significant difference between pulling back to the "4" with the hip flexors vs. the hamstrings.

A comment on "perception" . . . the problem with relying on the cues of "falling" and "pulling" is that everyone perception is different. One person's sensation of falling or pulling may not be the same as another's. A coach as to look for the cues that gets the athlete moving correctly but Pose seems rigid in the cues employed.

Lastly, I personally think the Pose method is excellent to the extent it gets people off their heels and landing with the footstrike underneath rather than out front. And it is good to think about engaging the hamstrings more than the quads/hip flexors. The rest of the Pose material strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.


Brian MacKenzie wrote …

@Thomas... I agree w/ a lot of what you've brought up. BUT the one real difference between folks who run fast and folks who run slower is USE OF HAMSTRINGS. Period. They can even heel strike (I don't advocate) but if the hamstrings are used they go faster.

@scott, when folks are usually shuffling along they are primarily using their hip flexors, you can still run slow and use the hamstrings. Doesn't mean you should go slow, and conditioning w/ skill should increase together. So if 400m means you fall apart, back off to 300m and crank up intensity.


replied to comment from Brian MacKenzie

I am a large proponent of CrossFit and an avid student of CrossFit Journal. I competed on both NCAA and USATF Championship levels as a decathlete (ie, big dudes trying to run as well as little dudes). Now as a coach, on both NCAA and US National Team levels, I have used CrossFit influences in the conditioning of my athletes, and I often turn to CrossFit Journal to further my own education as a strength and power coach. You even featured one of my athletes on the main site a couple of days ago.
However, it pains me as a track and field coach to watch these two videos on running drills. I very much appreciate and applaud the attempt to educate the community on the very overlooked technical skill that is properly running, but I fear that these videos will do little above misinform and confuse. I for one, with extensive experience in the subject was only confused by the rhetoric and pained by the demonstrations.
There is in HUGE correlation between running injuries and foot-strike positioning as I think is being touched upon with the heel emphasis, but there is also HUGE correlation between hamstring injuries and over use of the hamstring in sprint running. "The one real difference between folks who run fast and folks who run slower is USE OF HAMSTRINGS. Period." an incredible statement with very little meaning, and I would argue, very little truth. Race walkers use there hamstrings, a lot. The difference between race walkers and sprinters are front side (in front of the center of mass) mechanics - ie, hip flexors in large part. To universally say that one needs to be running with more hamstring and less hip flexor is ridiculous. Everyone, slow or fast, uses their hamstrings to run. FAST people use their hamstrings to setup greater amplitude of the front-side mechanics creating force into the foot strike. SLOW people run back side dominant - the majority of the running cycle occurs behind the center of mass, using the hamstring to pull the foot off the ground. Without the hip flexors you cannot get the leg into position to apply force into the ground. No force = no go.
Again, I applaud the thought here, but I think a follow up to explain a bit more (and show a bit more) of what you're looking for in full running mechanics would be a good idea in order to give some context to these drills. True, anything to get people thinking about their running mechanics is a step in the right direction, but I think CF Journal standards have shown to be much higher than this across the board when speaking of gymnastics, olympic lifting, swimming, etc.

One last note that I have to mention: you're KILLING ME with the plantar flexion of the foot in the demonstrations. Please get your foot up! (and don't be afraid to use your arms!)


replied to comment from Brian MacKenzie


Thank you very much for taking the time to reply! It is greatly appreciated.

@Thomas Think of it this way - If you have been doing something with incorrect form for a long time, you have to be broken down and rebuilt to work with correct form and get ultimately faster/lift more/whatever the skill is. In other words, you may have to get slower for a short while before you can get faster in the long run. In the long term the efficiency will make you faster. In the short term, you have to re-learn what you have been doing poorly for so long. You may be able to run a 7 minute mile poorly, but it may never get better. But work on perfect form and watch that mile time improve over time.


Been practicing this stuff via two avenues: 1) myself and 2) teaching another person. We can often learn a lot from trying to teach the method to another person.

These vids have been huge in helping me get this.

I don't always have a training partner so I use a band to activate my hamstrings. Are there other ways to do this. I recently saw a picture of a friends home gym on FB and he had some ankle weights laying around. initially I thought WTF!? however, after sleeping on it, I think maybe some ankle weights for the novice might serve two purposes: 1) activate the hamstring, or the awareness of the hamstring during running (so long as we were right on top of them tell them to PULL not SHUFFLE) and maybe even strengthen the muscle in that use. Any thoughts?

Also, I find myself practicing these drills before about a mile run (with dogs), probably not optimal, but the dogs need walking and I need warming up. Is it better to get it right then stop as opposed to getting it right and then changing stride when tired. I used to "feel" the pose but then get metabolically tired and sqap to a poorer running style. It dawns on me as a professor that any time practicing the incorrect movement is implicitly rewarding those motor units (i.e. we are executing a suboptimal motor program and moving, our goal). I do realize that in a WOD, for time, we will probably all default to some bad running if we get tired and spent, I immediately think of Nancy. But in training when do we say to ourselves or our athletes, ok that's enough? Is it when their technique starts to tire? Is it only after they are so metabolically tired-out that they can no longer engage the Hamstring effectively? The reason I ask is I have a lot of people come to my garage that LOATHE running. I am trying to teach them running can be effective and efficient, but I need some advice about duration of training for such running. Does this come as a weekly "technique day"? I feel it'd be better to practice something like this a few times a week, but I don't know the rate of diminishing returns on my , and their investment. I'd appreciate any thoughts.
and THANKS AGAIN! I cannot wait to get on a CFE Cert...


replied to comment from Brian MacKenzie

Thanks for the advice Brian.

I think Thomas made and incorrect assumption about my statement; I wouldn't be able to complete the 400m (with speed and intensity) with any running style. I started CrossFit very deconditioned but have made great improvements. I could barely run 100m at any speed. I've been able to do most of the running assigned in the main page WODs including a few slow 5Ks (maybe I'll try a 2-3K with more intensity next time as Brian suggests till my conditioning and skills improve).

I'm a big guy (230, started CrossFit at 295) and Pose is saving me from all the pain I used to experience when running. I'm running pain free and that means a lot to me.

One last comment about Pose. When the form is good you can feel it (perception - very efficient and flowing) I look forward to perceiving this more frequently in the future.


replied to comment from Matt Chisam

at Matt C.

I used to think the same thing about foot planter flex vs foot dorsiflex.

You have to look at sprinting and endurance running. It is two different skill sets.

You are correct for sprints, but that wouldn't as well for endurance running.

You need to look at the older videos or attend an endurance cert. on how they use gravity to increase the stride length and stride distance.

I am not saying you are not smart.

Just that you have to look at it as two different outcomes with two unique running styles.

I would never use this video to train my football athletes for a 40 yard dash or cone drills (both require running).


wrote …

Practice this drill going up stairs.
Most buildings have steep, narrow staircases.
Try it, make sure you pull that leg up.

Feedback please.


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

Out of everything I have learned in CrossFit (which is literally everything I know about fitness), the Pose Method has been the most difficult to learn myself and coach. It takes a very long time to "master" (and I am by no means a master) because it is more about feeling (aka perception) than seeing. While you can still use visual corrections, they are hard to spot without knowing exactly what to look for. However, I have found it to be the most efficient movement technique taught in the community.

My point is be patient and see the big picture. I definitely understand where the doubters are coming from. But if you honestly want to improve your running (sprinting or distance), just watch Dr. Ramonov's and Brian Mackenzie's videos MULTIPLE times and go out and practice. This stuff works.


wrote …

Any thoughts on stride ange and over-stride as it relates to the following running analysis video? Below is a link to a SOMAX video of running efficiency. Thanks.


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

Jon, they posted that video awhile back on the CrossFit Endurance site. That mircofiber reduction thing is crazy!

As fas as the over-stride angle idea, I think what Pose focusses on is how closely your foot lands to under your general center of mass. It's pretty much the same thing. The lower your over-stride angle, the closer it is to Pose

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