ABC Running Drills – What You Need To Know

March 1, 2023

Good runners know that at the heart of every performance is technique. The right technique will have you running better, reduce the risk of injury, and even push you towards your goals.

Much like how your ABCs are the very basics of schooling, ABC drills are the very basics of running.

These simple drills reinforce correct technique, and practicing them frequently can make you into a stronger runner.

Read on to discover why ABC drills are important, see some examples, and find out how to add them to your workouts.

What Are ABC Running Drills?

ABC drills are the very basics of running. ABC running drills are akin to learning your ABCs at school — you have to do it before you do anything else.

These are the drills that teach you how to start a movement, how to hold yourself, and how to propel yourself forward.

Because of this, ABC drills are often used by sprinters, but they can also benefit distance runners.

Examples of ABC running drills include ankle work, high knees, and skipping.

By practicing these movements, runners will gain better control over their technique, eventually leading to better form, and a reduced risk of injury.

Who Can Benefit From ABC Running Drills?

Any runner can benefit from ABC running drills. These are movements designed to really emphasize the basics, and good basics are always worth practicing.

Whether you’re trying to pick up speed or improve technique, there are many reasons to incorporate ABC drills into your training.

ABC running drills take running and break it down into parts, putting a focus on different stages of moving. By doing this, a runner can gain greater control of their own body, and better understand their technique.

From here, you can work on improving your basics, and eventually work on perfecting your running style.

Examples Of ABC Running Drills

We’ve covered why you should practice ABC running drills, so let’s take a look at some examples:


Lift one leg off the ground with a slight knee bend, keeping the toe pointed down. Step forward with a deliberate and controlled movement.

Start by pressing your toes to the ground, then carry the motion through to the ball of the feet, and along to the midfoot, finishing just before the heel.

Avoid touching the heel to the ground. Steps should be small and reasonably slow, with the emphasis on the ankle and hips.

Switch to the other leg, keeping the movement steady and controlled throughout. The upper body and hips should be kept straight, while the arms are bent to support the movement.

Ankle training works the flexibility of the ankle joint, and your hip extension.

When you’re comfortable and confident with this movement, you can add balance training. Try walking backwards following the same toe to heel movement.

Alternatively, circle your arms during the movement.

High Knees

Keep the weight of your body on the balls of your feet. Push off with one foot, lifting the leg to hip height with the knee bent.

At the top of the movement, the thigh should be straight and forming a right angle with the upper body. Lower the leg, maintaining balance on the forefoot, not the heel.

Switch sides, lifting the alternate knee, and keeping a high frequency. The upper body should remain straight and upright, while the arms work in time with the leg movement.

High knee drills work the hip flexors. Try experimenting with pace, while maintaining controlled movements.

Heel To Bum Kicks

Stand straight with your heels to the ground. Push off on one leg, bringing the heel up to the bum.

At the top of the movement, the heel should be pressing against the bum, with the knee pointing down. Lower the leg until the heel is flat on the floor, and repeat the movement with the other leg.

During this drill, the upper body should be kept straight, or with a slight forward bend. Follow the motion with your arms.

Heel to bum kicks are used to strengthen the flexor muscles in the legs.

High Leg Skips

Push off one leg until the thigh forms a right angle with your body. As you lift the knee, push upwards off the other foot, moving forwards.

Land on the same take-off foot, lowering the knee once you’ve landed. Repeat the movement, alternating which leg is the take-off leg.

This drill has forward momentum, so you should be moving forward with each jump. Momentum should come from the forefoot, not the heel.

Keep the head and torso straight, while moving the arms upwards with each skip.

High leg skips can be used to strengthen both the leg muscles and the gluteal muscles.

Side Skips

Moving sideways, step one leg away, and then bring them together again. The arms play a key role in this movement.

They should be kept straight at all times, moving outwards from the body and back inwards, to support the momentum you’re creating.


Cross the right foot over the left foot, turning the hip to the left with the movement. Bring the left foot forward, moving in front of the right foot, before finishing in a standing position.

Cross the right foot behind the left foot, following the movement with your hip. Bring the left foot over the right foot, until you reach a standing position. Follow for five steps, and reverse.

As you move, keep the arms extended, and held parallel to the floor. The hips move, but the upper body should not rotate.

Crossovers can be used to improve hip flexibility and mobility.

Running Backwards

Running backwards requires a high focus on your movements. Either use a slow walk and short movement, or move quickly with longer steps.

The arms should follow the movement, while the upper body and hips remain straight.

Running backwards engages the calf muscles, but it also encourages you to focus on your motor skills. Pay close attention to each movement.


The final drill is acceleration. Acceleration begins as a slow run, and the tempo is gradually increased to a sprint over the course of 500 feet.

As you move, pay close attention to your running style, and keep the movement controlled even as you increase your speed.

Your head and upper body should be upright and facing forwards, the arms should follow the movement, and you touch down with the balls of your feet first.

How To Incorporate ABC Running Drills Into Your Workout

Follow the ABC drills before you embark on a demanding run or workout. You don’t have to follow every drill every time, but pick a handful and really focus on the movements.

Make sure to practice your ABC drills at least once a week. This will ensure you learn the movements quicker, and that you retain the correct technique.

If you haven’t practiced the ABC drills before, ask a trainer to supervise the first time you try. They can guard against form errors that you might otherwise fail to notice.

Final Thoughts

ABC drills are the very basics of running, and while the drills aren’t physically demanding, they require a high level of concentration.

But by incorporating them into your workout, you can run better, and start working safely towards your goals.

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