My reflection on The Pose Method’s principles and processes.

The supermajority of runners—of people in general—are fond of saying that there is no one way to run. We accept that there are specific techniques for swimming, throwing a ball, swinging a golf club, doing a spin kick, squatting a barbell, and even for properly flipping a goddamn omelet. We accept that adhering to these techniques will make us better at the motion, and less likely to be injured.

(I’ll bet you a hundred bucks that you’ll get carpal tunnel if you flip an omelet wrong one time too many).

But this doesn’t apply to running. When it comes to running, everyone’s different.

Or so they say.

Dr. Nicholas Romanov, founder of The Pose Method, disagrees. After extensive study and experimentation, he identified the key similarities between everyone’s running style. In order for us to be able to run—to move forward consistently without falling—we have to alternate support: one leg remains on the ground, allowing the body to fall forward (instead of downward), while the other moves through the air to create new support under the body’s new location.

The biggest similarity between everyone’s form, whether we’re talking about a couch potato with a New Year’s resolution or about Usain Bolt, is this: at some moment in time, one foot will be supporting the body on the ground, while the other will be passing under the hip area (which is known in biomechanics as the general center of mass, or GCM).

This is what Dr. Romanov refers to as “pose.” How to achieve pose properly is the centerpiece of his method.

Consequently, the most important difference between that couch potato and Bolt—but not the only difference, of course—is that Bolt takes far greater advantage of the time spent in pose.

When we look at Usain Bolt’s running, we recreational runners and non-athletes get the sense that we are looking at genius. We may not be able to put our finger on this genius or break it down with precise words, but we recognize it as genius nevertheless.

But what we are really seeing in Bolt is a perfect running pose—a masterful, yet unconscious (and possibly unknowing) execution of the principles laid out by The Pose Method.

The Pose Method isn’t a “running style.” Dr. Romanov emphasizes this heavily—he didn’t “invent” the running pose any more than the squat and the snatch were invented. These weightlifting forms were discovered: the squat is the best way to lift weight on the shoulders, and the snatch is the best way to propel weight vertically from the ground. The running pose is also a discovery: it is the best way to harness the force of gravity to create horizontal displacement of the upright human body.

The method part of the name refers to a recipe built around the simplest, most efficient exercises that can help us replicate pose effectively and consistently across distance and time.

To truly understand The Pose Method, it’s critical to grasp the role that gravity plays in running. On the surface, it seems that gravity has little benefit beyond helping us return to the ground so that we can once again propel ourselves forward. Gravity is a downforce. We all know this. So how, then, can it help us move horizontally?

Because of the support phase, that is, the running pose itself. When one foot is on the ground, and we shift our center of gravity even slightly forward of that foot, we begin to fall. But we can look at it in a different way: falling forward is really a rotation, at least at first. When we run, the support foot acts as the vertex of an angle between our hips and the direction of gravity. When we’re perfectly upright, that angle is zero. As we shift our weight forward, that angle increases: our hips (along with the rest of our upper body) travel forward, while our support foot remains behind.

Effectively, we’ve converted the downward force of gravity into a rotational force. The greater the angle, the greater the force.

Of course, if we just keep increasing that angle without doing anything else, we’ll fall on our face. But we don’t—our body has all the necessary countermeasures in place: they’re called reflexes. In order to catch ourselves, we reach towards the ground with the other foot.

Ideally, that foot should land directly under the center of mass. This is the case, at least, in Usain Bolt’s running (and that of a few other luminaries, such as Galen Rupp). In most of us, the foot lands somewhere else.

If our foot lands in front of us, momentum has to carry our center of mass forward, until arrives on top of the foot. Only then can we begin to use gravity to advance. And if it takes too long for our heel to lift, we are not falling forward in the earnest—heel lift is a critical component of any athletic movement. That’s why it is so emphasized across sports.

To the degree that our foot lands ahead of us, we are wasting time. And to the degree that our heel delays from lifting, we are losing power.

In order to prevent each of these two issues, the swing leg (which is off the ground) must remain under the center of mass for the entire time that the weight of the body is supported by the other leg. While one forefoot is on the ground, the other foot must remain under the hips.

The array of injuries and problems with the running of most runners are caused by deviations from pose. When we see a master runner—when we recognize genius—we are unconsciously recognizing that these few conditions are being properly satisfied. All other nuances of form are by-products of these few facts.

Dr. Romanov likes to say that we all run in pose. Regardless of our race, creed, gender, or ethnicity, we’ve all gone through this position every step of every run we’ve ever run. What differs between runners is whether we achieve pose—and retain it—effectively.

Whether there is a proper way to run is not a question. Whether there is a way to find it is not a question. The only real question is whether we hold to old, absurd paradigms—that running is the only sport where there is no One Right Way—or whether we engage our time and efforts in mastering principles which have already been discovered and already been presented as the core teachings of The Pose Method of running.

35 thoughts on “My reflection on The Pose Method’s principles and processes.”

  1. I’ve been following your blog for a while now. As a Pose running coach, your application of systems science to running immediately made sense to me, and supplied me a new “vocabulary” I use to describe concepts I had been struggling to communicate previously. I’m glad to see that you have a very clear understanding of Pose, and more importantly, the questions Pose theory attempts to address.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ken,

      Thanks for your gracious comment. I actually had the great opportunity to go to the Pose Level 1 certification in Miami this weekend. The principles laid forth by Dr. Romanov are extremely convincing to me. I’ve been trying to put my finger on the principles of running for a while now, by doing personal research, coaching, and blogging. It was very satisfying to meet (in Dr. Romanov) someone so willing to shed old paradigms and teach new ones to those who will listen.

      Ivan

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Congratulations! I’m a Pose Level III coach. Feel free to contact me with Pose related questions. You may be interested to know I’m working on some articles for the Pose Tech website partially inspired by your application of systems science to running.

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      2. Ken:

        Great! I absolutely will. In particular, I’m interested in really developing coaching cues for the particular drills, in order to effectivize teaching.

        You’ll like to know that Severin Romanov is interested in me writing an article (or a few) about Pose, to be featured in a popular magazine. If it’s okay, I’ll find you on Facebook so that we can continue our discussions.

        I’d also love to discuss the systems science and its applications to running with you at greater length.

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  2. Great! Please do find me on Facebook. I’m also on all the Pose related forms in which I posted this article earlier today. I look forward talking with you more.

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  3. An interesting article and very well written and explained. Whilst I agree with many of the principles of Pose, I don’t believe that there is a ‘One Right Way’ for people to run. If you look at squatting, throwing a javelin, swimming etc, there are different ways to successfully execute the tasks that take into account individual mechanics, physiology and injury history (squatting being a particularly good example of this)

    Pose is a fantastic system/approach for some but it’s not right for everyone. I believe that elements of Pose should be applied to all runners (in the same way that squatting has fundamental components that everyone should adhere to) but going down a ‘one size fits all’ model in anything in life fails to take into account individual differences and objectives.

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the difference in mechanics between sprinting and middle distance running (and therefore the application of Pose). The examples you cite in your article are sprinters, who generally adopt a different style to 5000m or marathon runners, particularly in the context of foot contact and the degree of active ‘pulling’ versus a passive recoil/slingshot effect at the point of maximum hip extension in the recovery/swing leg.

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    1. As a Pose coach, I’ll chime in on your question about the differences. There are variables within the technique that are adjusted based on the speed of the runner. The technique remains the same, but the amplitude of the movements change. This may sound strange, but once you understand the technique, it all makes sense. Pose claims there is one optimal way to perform every movement, but most movements do vary in amplitude depending on the desired result. It is true that many people can perform very well even though their movement varies from this ideal. Some can even perform at a world-class level, but they are unlikely to achieve their full potential with less than perfect technique. I hope that helps a little bit.

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    2. David:

      Thanks for your comment. Ken, I’m going to expound a little on what you address.

      The One Right Way is about biomechanical principles. Principles, by necessity, apply to all forms, or they aren’t principles.

      The example I like to use to explain this is that of lifting heavy objects. When lifting a heavy object, it is important to put the weight as close to the center of gravity, and to bend at the hips and the knees (a.k.a. deadlifting) instead of at the waist. Even though everyone’s deadlift looks slightly different because we have differently-sized limbs, feet, etc., nobody is configured to lift objects more safely or more powerfully by bending at the waist. If, for some reason, it’s genuinely easier for someone to bend from the waist to pick up heavy objects, I can all but guarantee that you’ll find some sort of dysfunction at the knee, hip, or ankle.

      In a similar way, for example, if someone is swimming freestyle, they should have a netural spine and feet that are fully plantarflexed. Each of the different forms of swimming have particular biomechanical requirements. If someone wants to swim crawl with a flexed spine because their back extensors can’t handle the load on their shoulders and scapula, they aren’t doing crawl “their way” in any sense of the word. They’re doing it wrong.

      In my opinion, the “pull” seems to be a cue to fully utilize the elastic recoil. In order to bring the “pushoff” foot back up as quickly as possible under the center of mass, the knee must flex and move forward simultaneously. I’ve tried it, and if “springiness” is any measure of elastic recoil, the pull is an excellent way to maximize that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for both responses. I suppose my point is not so much about the validity of the science and mechanics in Pose, it’s a question of whether coaches should be teaching and encouraging everyone to run in a Pose style or following all of the Pose principles?

        I’m a sports scientist, qualified running coach and personal trainer, have read all of Romanov’s books and am good friends with a number of Pose coaches. I certainly don’t disagree with it as a method of helping people to run and move more efficiently, I just don’t believe that teaching everyone purely Pose is the best way to go.

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      2. That’s a very interesting question. For example, I’m recovering from a severe cervical injury, that caused a lot of asymmetries in my muscular tone and movement patterns. By asking to adhere to certain biomechanical principles, I feel that pose is “taxing” in the sense that many people (including myself) I feel, are not capable of just immediately fully adhering to those principles. Running in perfect pose requires a high level of mobility and proprioception at a high rate of motion.

        I’m doing a high volume of corrective exercise to increase mobility, stability, and strength, and I believe that those are definitive precursors to achieving a good running form. Dr. Romanov’s philosophy does present a very good recipe–as in a set of exercises–that helps us achieve pose, but for someone with lingering neuromuscular/skeletal dysfunctions like me, there is still some recovery road that needs to be covered in order for my body to be able to properly adhere to the principles laid out by pose.

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      3. Whatever method you use to teach movement, ultimately everyone must answer to the same laws of physics. If another method gets results then no problem. Keep in mind though, that the focus in Pose is on the final result and no so much on intermediate goals. So other methods may get better short term results, at the expense of the best long term result.

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  4. David:

    In the next few weeks I’ll be diving deeper into the principles presented by Pose, in terms of their mechanical and physiological implications. I’d love to hear your comments and reservations in terms of specific principles.

    Bruce Lee said: “Use only what works, and take it from anywhere you can find it.”

    This is not so much for you, but for me. I’m sold on Pose because it holds up to my own scrutiny. I genuinely want to see if it holds up to yours.

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    1. Many thanks. I guess it isn’t a case of not being sold on the principles of Pose, it’s that as a running coach and trainer, I need to be cognisant of each individual’s mechanics, history and training objectives.

      For example, if I have someone who’s an habitual heel striker with a history of calf and achillies injuries but the foot strike is close to under hips and under a flexed knee then I don’t see the benefit/risk equation associated with moving them to a forefoot strike to be worthwhile or necessary. It’s only a braking force if it’s ahead of hips.

      If someone is willing, capable and happy to make big technique changes to suit an ideal ‘model’ then that’s great but again, this isn’t the case for everyone.

      Bruce Lee was a wise man! : )

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      1. David, I’d love to see a video example of what you describe. It sounds nearly impossible. A heelstrike, with a bent knee, under the hips? This isn’t so much a conversation about forefoot strike at all, I don’t find it a relevant point here. But biomechanically speaking, I can’t imagine in my mind what you’re describing.

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      2. Depends where you’re looking at the first phase of contact being and how you’re defining a ‘heel strike’. You’ll see a lot of elite marathon runners making an initial heel contact under a slightly bent knee then moving to a more forefoot load at mid stance (just watch the recent London marathon replays and you’ll see what I mean). It’s absolutely relevant to the conversation given the prominance placed on foot strike by Pose

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    1. The runner in that video is not landing under the hips by any stretch of the imagination. My question was regarding your description of a runner that’s a habitual heel striker, that is landing under the hips. Biomechanically, this isn’t possible, and it’s by no means a moot point, if we’re discussing precise technique elements. Some of which can’t arbitrarily be combined together. E.g. Heel strike and landing under the hips.

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      1. Thanks Severin. Landing under the hips with every strike is pretty much impossible to maintain for any distance. It’s not biomechanically impossible to land close to under hips (I’m not saying it has to be directly under hips) with an initial heel contact.

        In relation to striking, my opinion is that it’s more about where the foot is relative to the rest of the body at the point of maximum load as opposed to if the initial contact is forefoot or heel.

        Also, the runner in the video happens to be a world record holder for the marathon so I’m not convinced he’s doing too much wrong : )

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      2. Being a world-record holder doesn’t automatically mean he has good technique. Just look at old footage of Alberto Salazar. The speeds at which distance runners run allow for a great deal of sloppiness in technique so long as they have the “engine” to compensate. As I said above. People can be quite successful even with suboptimal technique.

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      3. Absolutely agree Ken. As I said, it all comes back to individuals. He runs fast, doesn’t regularly get injured and breaks world records so would it be worth him making big changes to his style simply to fit an ‘ideal blueprint’?

        I certainly wouldn’t say he has ‘bad’ technique though. Look at Prischa Jeptoo as another example. Far from ‘good’ technique but it works for her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg3RV7icrLI

        Quite often, these apparent ‘dysfunctions’ have been going on for years and may be a result of anatomical restrictions etc where the body has developed compensation patterns. Trying to change these can often create more problems than it solves.

        Please don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means anti Pose, far from it. It’s just worth being open to a range of ideas and approaches to suit someones needs.

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      4. David, I never got the sense you were anti-pose. I’m just trying to clarify some of the ideas and concepts from a Pose perspective.

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    1. After your clarification, I don’t see much wrong with your statements. It’s in fact, impossible to land under the hips, that’s not physically possible. But I think it’s also important to be precise with your definition of “slightly ahead” also. The video of the world record holder, was moderately ahead of the body, akin to a midfoot strike. The definition I’m using is, maximal distance ahead of the body, would be on a fully outstretched leg, landing on the heel. Somewhere in the middle of that, is not slightly ahead.

      All too commonly, definitions of running elements are the culprit of large misunderstandings. For the same reason most people misidentify or confuse forefoot landing with running on the toes, or confusing that landing on the midfoot, is in fact impossible also – anatomically speaking.

      Let me know when you’ve had time to look into the Pose Method more extensively, I’d love to hear your thoughts once we are using the same definitions.

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  5. Pose doesn’t say that heel strikers can’t run well. In fact, many of them have better technique than most forefoot strikers. It is just one variation of many from the ideal, but it is still a variation.

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  6. Thanks Severin. You make a great point that a lot of this mis understanding from people comes from interpretation of definitions.

    As I said, I’ve read all of Romanov’s books, worked with Pose coaches and had Pose coaches work for me so have a pretty good grasp on what it’s all about. I think a lot of people get confused about what ‘strike’ means and how that relates to ‘load’. Without an understanding and explanation of the phases of running gait, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of mis understanding out there.

    I agree, you can’t ‘land’ or ‘strike’ on your midfoot but you can ‘load’ on your mid foot at mid stance (and ultimately that’s the phase of gait where the most load is going into the foot)

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  7. Arriving at the party very late, the only comment I would make about an otherwise excellent article relates to your sentence “What differs between runners is whether we achieve pose—and retain it—effectively”. Idiomatically this is misleading. All runners achieve pose – and fall, and pull – during the running cycle. And all runners lose it as they move from one essential position to the next. What differs between the best running form and the form that is less-efficient/more-injury-prone is the time spent between the essential poses. So our aim is not to ‘retain’ pose but to ‘transition’ is quickly as possible from pose to fall, and from fall to pull, and from pull to pose.

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    1. Ciaran:

      Thanks for your comment, and for your appreciation of my argument. Still, I want to defend my use of the word “retain.”

      As the support foot lands, our opportunity to be in Pose begins. However, lots of runners don’t take this opportunity by pulling late, and more pertinently to my use of the world “retain”, lose Pose before that opportunity ends.

      So, what timing the fall and the pull correctly does is allow you “retain” pose for the maximum amount of time you have the opportunity to do so.

      Furthermore, because most people break from pose early (swing their foot forward and away from their center of gravity as soon as their center of mass passes their point of support), “retaining” pose is a big component of producing a correct running form. This is in particular what the elites do best, and is a big contributor to creating a well-timed pull: if one foot swings out and forward, the other foot will remain behind to counterbalance the body—and will arrive late under the center of gravity.

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