What is Robust Running?

Robustness is a term that gets thrown around a lot lately, but few people take a step back to look at what the term actually means. Robustness is more than just having the strength to endure more pressure; it is about being able to endure different pressures. Or, to quote the experts, the ability of a system to tolerate perturbations. We are happy to announce that our latest eCourse in the HMMR Media Classroom focuses on the topic. In it, John Pryor provides a practical guide to develop robust running skills.

Open vs. Closed Skills

Robust technical skills become more and more important in open skill sports. My sport, the hammer throw is a relatively closed skill sport. It requires me to execute one movement pattern with the possiblity of only minimal pertubations. I may need to adapt to different weather, but I will never be required to change up the movement mid throw in response to an opponent.

Learn more: Join HMMR Plus and watch the complete video in the HMMR Media Classroom.

Open skilled sports, on the other hand, require technique that can be adapted to a wide variety of situations. This makes technical execution more difficult in sports like football, rugby, tennis and basketball. Let’s take running, for example: if a change of direction puts you out of position to apply further force, you will lose speed. Building robust technique, therefore, is about developing technique that can be executed in a wide range of situations.

Developing Robustness

Pryor has become a leader in developing speed for team sports. Through his work with Japan Rugby, as well as professional clubs like the Brumbies and Suntory Sungoliath, he has helped teams develop on-field speed. I had the chance to interview him a few year ago, and his approach immediately appealed to me. All the time we see athletes with top linear speed that cannot translate it to the field; the problem is often that the speed fails when the environment changes. Pryor has incorporated ideas from Frans Bosch and others to create a system that develops robust running skills.

Robustness is about being able to endure different pressures, not about simply enduring more pressure. Click To Tweet

His approach is not rocket science, but it is very eye opening. As with many things, it makes your realize that common sense is not that common. He starts with identifying common areas where technique fails and then targets them with unique drills that force the athletes to adapt. Through this he can help the athletes develop robustness in a short time frame.

A common problem in rugby and american football is that the upper and lower body prefer to work in tandem, meaning that when the athlete’s upper body is hit, their legs stop moving too. The best runners are those that can continue to drive their legs through contact or who can rotate their upper body to catch a pass without compromising their turnover. In the video preview below, Pryor explains one exercise, adapted from Bosch, that he uses to address this:

In the complete video he also discusses general philosophy and walks through examples of many other exercises he uses to develop robustness in other situations. Become a HMMR Plus member now to watch this video and all of the other tutorials in the HMMR Media Classroom on topics like warming up, plyometrics, basic speed drills, and more.

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