How we swing our arms, hold our posture and where our feet hit the ground are all important for developing an efficient and running pattern. One of the easiest ways to activate all of these ingredients is to focus on your running cadence/rhythm. By focusing on increasing cadence/rhythm, your body automatically adjusts to a more economical and natural running technique.

We all have an optimal cadence/rhythm. However, the scientific literature suggests that for optimal economy, running at an average of 180 BPM is best. Most recreational runners however run as low as 160 BPM

The majority of elite runners strike the ground at >180 BPM. This cadence/rhythm is consistent, whether they are running a 1500m race or a marathon. (Sprinting, however, necessitates a much higher cadence/rhythm).

A number of studies have suggested that a faster running cadence/rhythm not only helps with running economy but also helps to adjust a runner’s technique and in turn leads to fewer injuries

COMPRESSION
TENSION
BRAKING

LEADS TO

INEFFICIENCIES
INJURY

SPRING ACTIVATION
MUSCLE FIRING
LIGHTNESS

LEADS TO

EFFICIENCIES
LESS INJURY

How we swing our arms, hold our posture and where our feet hit the ground are all important for developing an efficient and running pattern. One of the easiest ways to activate all of these ingredients is to focus on your running cadence/rhythm. By focusing on increasing cadence/rhythm, your body automatically adjusts to a more economical and natural running technique.

We all have an optimal cadence/rhythm. However, the scientific literature suggests that for optimal economy, running at an average of 180 BPM is best. Most recreational runners however run as low as 160 BPM

The majority of elite runners strike the ground at >180 BPM. This cadence/rhythm is consistent, whether they are running a 1500m race or a marathon. (Sprinting, however, necessitates a much higher cadence/rhythm).

A number of studies have suggested that a faster running cadence/rhythm not only helps with running economy but also helps to adjust a runner’s technique and in turn leads to fewer injuries

COMPRESSION
TENSION
BRAKING

LEADS TO

INEFFICIENCIES
INJURY

SPRING ACTIVATION
MUSCLE FIRING
LIGHTNESS

LEADS TO

EFFICIENCIES
LESS INJURY

First let’s look at the problems of the typical recreational runner, who runs at 160 BPM

1

A low cadence/rhythm typically creates a heel strike pattern. This has many disadvantages:

> Heel strike in front of the body is a brake to forward motion. This is a major component of inefficiency

> A heel strike creates compression of all of the joints from the heel to the spine

2

The low cadence/rhythm increases the ground contact time. The disadvantages here are:

> The outer hip muscles have to do too much work to support the pelvis and this can lead to the very common tension in the Iliotibial band which causes what is known as “jogger’s knee”

> The excessive ground contact time can also lead to overpronation (excessive rolling in) of the foot and can lead to further issues with the lower limbs

NOW, LET’S LOOK AT THE BENEFITS OF A HIGHER CADENCE/RHYTHM OF AROUND 180bPM OR GREATER

1

A higher cadence/rhythm creates a mid to fore-foot strike pattern. This has many advantages:

> There is no comparative braking mechanism involved as the foot tends to land more towards the center of the body rather than out in front.

> This midfoot stance activates the posterior muscular chain. Physiotherapists, personal trainers and running coaches are always trying to help clients increase this element of strength.

> Activation of the inherent spring mechanisms of the body. Think of a kangaroo traversing across a desert– more boing and less shock.

2

The higher cadence/rhythm decreases the ground contact time. The advantages here are:

> Less tension in the outer hip muscles and increased utilisation of the appropriate posterior hip muscles.

> Less pronation (rolling in of the foot) and medial (inwards) rotation of the limb which leads to less injury.

Don’t just hear it from us though, check out these other great runners and authors on the benefits of running with a higher cadence/rhythm.

We, at Run180, totally agree with Dr. Romanov’s thoughts shared on the Pose Method. Ditto, Phil Latter via his Runner’s World article. This Competitor Running article breaks it down to the basics and iRunFar provides some great tips on increasing cadence/rhythm. We also love Christopher McDougal’s book Born to Run

And here are some of the articles that have informed Why180.

Alexander, A.M., 1988, Springs as energy stores: running. Elastic mechanisms in animal movement. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 31-50.

Cavagna, G.A., Saibene, F.P. and Margaria, R., 1964, Mechanical work in running, J. Appl. Physiol., 19:249-256

Cavagna, G.A., 1977, Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 5, 89-129.

Cavagna, P.R., La Fortune M.A., 1980, Ground reaction forces in distance running, J. Biomech, 13:397-406.

Heiderscheit, Bryan C, Elizabeth S Chumanov, Max P Michalski, Christa M Wille, Michael B Ryan, 2011, Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running, Medicine and science in sports and exercise 02/2011, 43(2):296-302.