I'm a bit behind the times (or the hype), but a few days ago Chris McDougall wrote an article for the New York Times on the 100 up exercise by Walter George. I've done exercises similar in the past, specifically a few closely related in the ChiRunning book with great success. I plan to experiment with this further and discuss any findings.
I realize that anything written by McDougall comes with a ridiculous amount of hype but I think he may be bringing something very worthwhile to the table with his observations.
The goal of the exercise is to improve your form to a more evolution-tested method which will reduce injuries. Great running strides (no pun intended) are made through consistency. The only way to have the opportunity to run consistently is to minimize time spent injured.
There's also a website up already with the HundredUp challenge if you're into that sort of thing. It includes helpful information on the major and minor methods directly from the horse's mouth.
Check out the video example of the exercise:
Have you done exercises like this already? Have you seen any benefit?
The 100-Up Exercise
By W.G. George, 1908 (from hundredup.com)
“…let me impress upon the student the necessity of maintaining perfect form in every practice, be it in the preliminary or the exercise proper. Directly the correct form is lost the exercise should stop. Beginners should start the exercise slowly and on no account strain or over-exert themselves. Hurried or injudicious training, or fast work while the system is unprepared for it, induces breakdown and failure. On the other hand, slow, well considered, steady practice is never injurious, while breakdowns are practically unknown among those who start their training slowly and who gradually increase distance, time or pace as the heart, lungs and the muscular system throughout grow accustomed to the extra strain and revel in it.”
Good advice from a century ago. As implied in the text above, George outlined two levels of the exercise, which he called “Minor” and “Major”. Here is the key text of the “minor” exercise:
“Draw two parallel lines along the ground, 18 inches long and 8 inches apart. Place one foot on the middle of each line. Stand flat-footed, the feet lying perfectly straight on the lines. The arms should be held naturally, loosely, and except for a slight forward inclination, nearly straight.
“Now raise one knee to the height of the hip, and bring the foot back and down again to its original position, touch the line lightly with the ball of the foot and repeat with the other leg. Continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. The main thing to remember is correct action. See that the knees are brought up at each stride to the level of the hip if possible, or as near as possible to the point as can be managed … and that the body maintains its correct perpendicular.
The exercise at first sight looks so easy of accomplishment that one might well think it possible to go a thousand up. This is the result of not raising the knees to the prescribed height — the main point of the exercise — or of ‘galloping’ through a short-timed movement in incorrect form. Get a friend to watch at your practice and to correct any shortcomings in your leg action or poise of the body and you will find the difference. Correct form once attained, the exercise may be increased in severity by gradually working from 10 to 20, 30 to 40 and so on to the ’100-up’ at each session, and by speeding up the pace.”