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Running Drills With Brian MacKenzie: Part 1 by Brian MacKenzie - CrossFit Journal
Video Article

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

MacKenzie says many problems he sees coming out of his CrossFit Endurance seminars are related to calves, feet and ankles. One of the issues is not allowing the heel to “kiss” the ground.

To utilize proper ankle flexion and muscle elasticity from your knee to your foot, MacKenzie’s drill is to jump rope in place while allowing the heel to kiss the ground. If you try to jump only on the balls of your feet, you will immediately notice that your calves seize up, MacKenzie says. The next progression is alternating feet while jumping rope.

To use the hamstrings and not the hip flexors, MacKenzie’s fix is having his athlete pull his leg up into the Pose position, then resist a downward pressure MacKenzie exerts on that foot. The retest is running place before returning to the jump rope and progressing to interval running.

10min 26sec

Video by Again Faster.

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

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31 Comments on “Running Drills With Brian MacKenzie: Part 1 ”


wrote …

Great Video! Is he suppose to look that choppy (aka an alternating high knee drill) on the jump rope portion? It just looks like the pull is off but when he drops the rope he looks a lot better. Any help would be appreciated!


Thank you.
I have been struggling with my running, it's one of my goats! Thanks so much!
Gonna be working this over the weekend.


wrote …

Awesome video. Did you find yourselves on google maps?


wrote …

Good to see B-mac on the journal with more invaluable running tips.

"Who programs with a 400 meter bias?" is a question Chris Spealler asked recently. A few weeks before the point was raised on another video about the worst part of a WOD is the run (when it occurs).

For those of us not of the running persuasion this stuff is gold.

It took a while for me to learn double unders, why shouldn't it take a little while to learn how to run properly?

Just do the work.

Intensity = results.


wrote …

Invaluable stuff. Keep doing this great job!

Thanks a lot!


Harrison, I agree - DUs = skill = practice, running should be the same. And personally I need it. :)


wrote …

awesome video, great content...can't wait for the rest!


wrote …

Thanks BmaK for the video. I'm learning as much as I can!


wrote …

i feel like my running technique is on key, especially since i started running barefoot (vibram 5 fingers) about 7 months ago. one of the only problems i have is double unders. i can't do em to save my life. i did watch the journal video about them but i still can't get them down. when they are called for in a WOD i just do twice as many singles. any help/suggestions would be much appreciated. hooyah crossfit!


replied to comment from jeremy holsey

Jeremy - Have you checked out the DU tutorial as part of the Mic'd Instructor series on the Again Faster website?


wrote …

Nice job Bmack & Doug! We've been teaching loads of the skills and drills from the CFE cert in our classes @CrossfitLondonUK. Both the skipping and partner support leaning drills are very useful. Many of the participants can hold POSE form for 80-100m, it seems to be a challenge to fight fatigue and hold form for greater distance at this stage. Keep up the good work and the informative videos champ.


wrote …

Great video. I will take those skills to practice my running


replied to comment from Jen Jacobs

no i haven't but im definitely going to. thanks


wrote …

Love the video! Can't wait for part 2!


replied to comment from jeremy holsey

I have been crossfitting about 9 months now. Double unders kill me as well. Until 2 wks ago I could not do one. I was practicing while facing down a slight decline and I finally hit my first Double under. I dont know if this was by chance or if the hill helped, but now I have 5 unbroken on flat ground. Like I said, I don't know if there is any merrit to this, but it might be worth a try.


wrote …

I recently ran into Achilles pain, what can this stem from? Last month I ran my first 50mi and had no problems during the race(besides my ankle bone hurting on the last mile) It wasn't until weeks after whenever I ran my Achilles would start to ache. I fee like I kiss the ground enough with my heel is there something else that I am missing?


wrote …

On doubleunders, I like alternating double/single/double/single; it's a good way to get used to doubles without having to keep the pace up as high. Once you get those, go to double/double/single, etc.


wrote …

To Eric Osborne - EXACTLY
Double Single DOuble Single to start.


wrote …

To Eric Osborne - EXACTLY
Double Single DOuble Single to start.


wrote …

The reason the "client" isn't capable of jump roping correctly is because the natural movement during running is a contralateral swing. By placing a jump rope in the hands of a client, you the throw the biomechanics of the move off. Thus transfer of the skill to actual running will be difficult.

Running is a push motion. If you over emphasize the pull, you will overload the hamstrings and lead to a "pulled" hamstring muscle(s). The final phase the grounded foot is a toe push off into a triple flexed position. The push-off allows the glutes to engage (arguably the strongest large muscle in the body). Hamstrings should be used, but not dominating the move especially transferring into triple flexion.

One of the best runners to watch would be Usain Bolt's technique. Google him for form. The form between sprinters and endurance runners will vary, however, the end result is the same: Push from triple extension into triple flexion and cover distance.

Agreed there should be a quick transfer from ball of foot to heel by "kissing" the ground, but then that fast push out of triple extension. Either way you shouldn't "pull" with your hip flexors. At that point you are not pushing with your toe to activate your glutes and driving knee forward.

During "WOD's", you are looking to run quick so by mimicking a sprinter more and training as a sprinter a distance runner's form may become more natural.


replied to comment from Carey Malec

I think you've missed the entire point of what Brian's teaching.

Take a look through videos here and at about the Pose running technique developed by Dr Romanov. There are a several articles and videos here by both Brian and Dr. Romanov explaining what Pose is, how other systems of running analysis are incorrect and how to learn to run correctly. Interestingly Dr Romanov uses Usain Bolt as an example of why his running principles, which are diametrically opposed to what you've just said, are correct.


wrote …

I stopped watching when you started pushing your dog around. I agree with the others who insinuated that Crossfits overall running philosophy/program is weak. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you hate running that is exactly what you should be focusing on! Improving that in which you suck? No? Go out and run 10 miles once and a while. Jeez.


wrote …

I believe you missed my point. If you observe Dr. Romanov's form, he has triple flexion and triple extension. My point it there is a better way to correct the clients form than with a jump rope. As you can see after teaching the form, the client couldn't transfer it to real scenario situation while running. The body isn't meant to run with arms down and both rotating same direction while running. Hence the contralateral comment.

Also, I believe Usain bolt holds the world record in the 100 meters. I believe he's doing something correct. There is a phrase, if it's not broke, don't fix it. Meaning, if he is free of injury during proper recruitment pattern and excels, then why fix.? No one is perfect with form or technique. You can't strive for 100% perfection. All you can do is look at what you can improve. If we are looking to improve the general population, let's make sure we are giving them the correct tools to succeed.

Lastly, I agree with Tylar. If a small change, such as getting someone to run is going to make a client see results in the grand scheme, then I'll take it. Changing form and improper firing patterns won't happen over night and should be addressed through a progressive manner. If not, that's how people injure themselves.


Dog lover


replied to comment from Carey Malec

Hi, Carey.

Triple flexion, yes. Extension I'm not so sure. If the toe-leg-hip goes all straight, it gets left behind. Then it takes longer to get back to Pose. Plus on the other side, we begin to reach out in front, leading to striking the ground ahead of our center of mass. We are taught to never completely extend. No pushoff.

All the hammies are doing is pulling up the lower leg into Pose. There is no pull or push against the ground. That's a different technique.

Pose, fall, pull. That's it. Forward motion comes from disrupting balance, placing your center of mass ahead of your support. You fall. If you are only pulling feet up and letting them fall back down, landing occurs under you center of mass, avoiding the braking effect of heel landing in front. At 9.8 meters per second per second, let gravity do the work.

As to the jump rope, I did see how that made things more difficult for the client. Did it bring out flaws in the runners form or create them? We did use jump rope drill at the CFE cert. Mine didn't work out because I can't keep a rope going while running. I thought in this video that the client had a slower jump rope speed than his running cadence, requiring holding his feet up longer. Perhaps that is the point; make your technique stronger performing under the adverse conditions presented by the jump rope. Valuable, but maybe the long way around for some coordination-challenged folks.




wrote …

Good answer Charles.

I agree 100% with your first paragraph. Triple extension is not and should not be fully reached. But the motion of plantarflexion should be created. Thus creating in essence triple extension.

Landing should occur under center of mass either way you look at it. If you are not "falling" forward, you are not performing correctly in a sprint or a distance run.

As you state, you can not assume the jump rope is the problem or the sympton. Just like in noticing bad the knees buckle because mobility or stability issues? You can't tell by one movement directly. Example is, you can't teach someone to squat by just doing leg extension, leg curls, calf raises, and leg press. You must squat. Mother nature taught us to squat from the bottom up, not from the top down. So same thing with running. Forward locomotion is a combination of a fall forward along with a push through (forces push is dependant on distance...sprint or marathon).

We can go back and forth in a debate for days, which is a good thing as long as the end result is to improve our clients and ourselves. What works for one person, may not work for the next. If we are working with 10+ people at a time we must recognize this and know how to adapt and change on the fly to accomodate everyone as best as possible. In a real world situation, will we? No. But we have to know how to handle.


wrote …

Great stuff! Good to see B Mac on here again. The jump rope drill can certainly be a challenge but for some it helps create that "aha" moment. For others, not so much. Different strokes for different folks.


wrote …

Killer video. I have a good amount crosfitters that struggle with both running and skipping. Great progression using the rope to apply a hugely misunderstood concept to most runners(myself included). Legit


wrote …

This runner's problem with the rope has to do with the lean of his upper body. He initially leans back causing him to swing his knees forward into a goose-stepping run. If you watch him being corrected, he leans his torso forward, at his ankles, and his feet come back naturally into a more correct figure 4 pose position. Brian diagnosed him correctly at the end of the video when he said he was leaning forward at the waist. If he kept his head,chest, hips all stacked in a neutral position and just started leaning at the ankles he could feel how the lean in running affects forward velocity. He should master jumping in place correctly before trying to feel the lean. Perhaps he feelsthat he has to duck forward under the rope. Perhaps tell him to stand tall as he jumps.


wrote …

I've got a couple questions that I'm hoping someone can answer for me.

Why are you allowing your heel to strike the ground? If you're trying to load your muscles, tendons, and ligaments quickly to utilize the conservation of energy, analogous to a perfect spring, won't you lose some of that energy into the ground if you allow your heel to strike the ground?

My second question stems from Andrew in comment 11. He mentions that his runners can maintain the pose running technique for 100m but after that they start losing their form due to fatigue. This may be a silly question, but why are we teaching a long distance running form that consumes more energy or causes more fatigue than other methods? Shouldn't a running form help you conserve energy or use it more efficiently?

Thanks a lot.


wrote …

I have been battling calf issues for the last couple of years. About a month ago I incorporated the suggestions from Part 1 and my calf issues are gone. That's worth the $25 dollar subscription fee!


wrote …

The runner's problem is that he is wearing that fake performance enhancer on his wrist.

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