What is A-skip?
A-skip is a running drill used as part of a warm-up. It improves running technique by teaching you to raise your knees and maintain proper posture and proper foot placement during a run. It also improves neuromuscular efficiency, as well as an arm to leg coordination.
How to do A-skip properly?
- Begin by standing with feet hip-distance apart, look straight ahead, and keep your upper body straight.
- Raise your left leg to hip-height while skipping on the ball of your right foot.
- Hit the ground below your center of mass with the ball of your left foot and stand on both feet.
- Continue alternating sides and moving forward.
Your arms should follow your leg movements, as they do when you are running. As you are doing the A-skip your foot should be bent towards your shin (dorsiflexion).
Tips for performing A-skip properly
- Mind your posture. Keep your body straight; do not bend forward or backward.
- Avoid rotating your body, focus your motions towards the direction you are moving in.
- Find your own rhythm, while coordinating your arms and legs.
- Focus on quick leg movements; reduce the time spent in contact with the ground.
- Do not forget to move your arms. Swing the arm opposite the raised leg.
It is important to focus on the proper execution of the A-skip. If you are not able to maintain proper form, you will ruin your running technique, thus increasing the risk of injury. Start with slower movements and gradually accelerate until you find your own rhythm. Maintain control of your movements throughout the drill.
How to learn A-skip?
A-skip is an exercise that requires a high degree of coordination and movement control. Before you start doing A-skip you should learn high knee march, a simpler drill with similar movements.
High knee march is an excellent starting point of beginners wanting to learn A-skip and high knees. Start with easier and more controlled movements, and as your balance, stability, and body mechanics improve, increase the pace.
During high knee march, as with other drills, you should emphasize proper posture as well as an arm to leg coordination.
How to do the high knee march properly?
- Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart, look straight ahead, and keep your upper body straight.
- Step with your left foot by raising your knee to hip-height while standing on your right leg.
- Lower your left foot below your center of mass.
- Raise your right foot and repeat the movement.
- Continue alternating sides and moving forward.
Your arms should follow your leg movements, as they do when you are running. As you are doing the high knee march your foot should be bent towards your shin (dorsiflexion).
What muscles does A-skip target?
A-skip activates more than one muscle group. A-skip targets the following muscles:
- Hip flexors
- Calf muscles
- Tibialis anterior
- Core muscles
Besides being part of a warm-up routine before more intensive training or races, A-skip also has other benefits.
Improves running technique
A-skip teaches you to maintain proper posture and raise your knees, which allows you to hit the ground beneath you with more force. The more force you hit the ground, the higher the knee will rise in the next step and the harder you will be able to hit the ground again.
A-skip also teaches you the proper foot position during a run. The foot should be bent towards the shin, in the position of dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion enables the activation of calf muscles. As you hit the ground the calf muscles will contract, allowing you to hit the ground with more force.
Improves neuromuscular effectiveness
A-skip improves communication between nerves and muscles by quickening nerve impulses that send signals to muscle fibers. As a result, your muscles will have better coordination in more intensive training or race.
Strengthens and stretches hip flexors
Hip flexor muscles consist of several muscles that allow you to raise your knees up to your chest, as well as bend your upper body forward. A-skip simultaneously strengthens and stretches your hip flexor muscles.
Research has shown that weaker hip flexor muscles lead to injury. Injuries happen not only because we forget to strengthen our hip flexors, but also because we weaken them and shorten them through everyday actions.
Strengthens feet muscles
A-skip teaches you to run on the balls of your feet that reduce the time you are in contact with the ground, thus increasing your speed.
In 2007 scientists from the Ryukoku University in Japan have set up a high-tech camera on the 15-kilometer-section of the half marathon and used it to record 283 runners. Research has shown that an average midfoot striker spends 183 milliseconds in contact with the ground, while an average heel striker spends 200 milliseconds in contact with the ground. Shorter time of contact results in a faster run and higher running economy.
How and when to include A-skip in your training?
A-skip is a running drill used in warm-up routines before more intensive training or races. Also, you can use it after an easy jog, when you are not as tired, so you could focus on the proper execution of the exercise.
A-skip can be done in place or by moving forward 20 to 40 meters and then resting as you walk back to your starting position.
Example of a warm-up routine before interval training (10 x 400m)1. Easy jogging (10 minutes)
2. Mobility exercises and dynamic stretches (7 minutes)
3. Running drills – 2 x 40m high knee march, 2 x 40m A-skip, 2 x 40m high knees
4. Strides – 3 x 60m
Read more: Warm-up Before Running [Ultimate Guide]