Skipping isn't just a fun thing young kids do. It's actually one of the easiest and most important ways to learn or improve your sprinting technique and get faster.
What Exactly is a Skip?
Most of us have skipped at some point in our lives. But have you ever really studied what goes on in the movement? It's more complex and athletic than you might believe.
- Your hip, knee and ankle triple-extend on your skipping leg to drive you off the ground.
- Your arms pump like they do when you run.
- Your opposite leg must relax and drive upward.
You don't go forward at a fast speed, but skipping is nearly identical to running mechanics. According to Mark Roozen, owner of Coach Rozy Performance, "If you can't skip, you can't run fast."
How Does Skipping Improve Technique?
Learning sprinting technique while actually sprinting is difficult. It's a high-speed move, making it challenging to control your body fully and understand exactly how you're moving.
Most technique drills slow down or isolate parts of your stride to reinforce what you should be doing when you move at full speed. Skipping falls into this category. "There is such a great transfer from skipping to running with the arm drive, leg push off and knee lift," says Roozen. "It gets the lower and upper body working in sync."
As you continue to perform skipping drills, your central nervous system eventually learns how to fire your muscles in the correct order, and proper sprinting form becomes second nature. You push off the ground with the balls of your feet instead of pulling yourself forward, and you learn where your foot should strike the ground. Also, your stride lengthens and you develop a more powerful arm drive. All of these elements are key for increasing your sprinting speed.
How Should You Incorporate Skipping Drills Into Your Workouts?
Roozen says that skipping drills are appropriate for all ages and levels, but they are particularly important for younger athletes learning sprint mechanics. For someone with experience, skipping drills can be used as a warm-up drill to wake up the muscles and keep your technique fresh.
There are several skipping variations you can add to your program. Roozen recommends starting with forward skips, then progressing to backward and lateral skips. Here are the fundamental variations to get you started:
A-Skip – This is a traditional skip.
How to: Drive your right knee up as you push off with your left leg. Drive your right foot down as you raise your left knee. Continue in alternating fashion. Check out the video above to see NFL running back Chris Johnson's A-Skip Speed Drill.
B-Skip – The B-Skip is a slight variation that teaches your hamstrings to fire when you come into contact with the ground.
How to: Drive your right knee up as you push off with your left leg. With your knee elevated, extend your right leg at your knee and accelerate it down by contracting your hamstring. Continue in alternating fashion.
Power Skip – This variation focuses on developing power.
How to: Perform a traditional Skip, but try to propel yourself into the air as high as possible.
Again, each of these skipping drills can be performed in any direction. For an additional challenge, add a resistance band, which makes it more difficult to maintain perfect form.
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