Mastering Vertical Oscillation: How To Reduce Bounce While Running

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Beginner Runner
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David Dack

Looking to enhance your running efficiency? One key aspect to focus on is minimizing bounce during your runs.

Efficient running hinges on proper form. When you perfect your technique, everything else falls into place, allowing you to run further and faster while reducing the risk of injury.

Your primary objective while running should be to propel your body forward, moving horizontally. Along with this horizontal motion, a certain amount of vertical movement is necessary for generating the force required for each running stride. This is where vertical oscillation, or bounce, comes into play.

But what is it exactly, and how does it affect performance? Is there a good or bad level of oscillation?

Worry no more.

In this article, I will delve into the concept of vertical oscillation in running. I’ll discuss its importance, what constitutes an optimal level of vertical oscillation for runners, and how you can enhance it. This understanding is vital for training more efficiently and staying injury-free.

Ready to dive in?

Let’s get started.

Top of Form

What is Vertical Oscillation

Understanding vertical oscillation and its impact on running performance is crucial for runners. Vertical oscillation refers to the vertical component of your running motion – essentially, how much you move up and down with each step, or the height of your bounce during a run.

Why Vertical Oscillation Matters:

  • Running Efficiency: Minimizing vertical oscillation can enhance your running efficiency. The less you move upward, the more energy you save for propelling yourself forward. Research shows that increasing vertical oscillation can negatively affect your running economy.
  • Energy Usage: A high level of vertical oscillation can indicate inefficient running. Excessive upward movement consumes energy that could otherwise be used for forward motion. This can lead to faster fatigue and slower run times.
  • Injury Risks: A greater amount of bounce increases stress on the lower body. This added stress can heighten the risk of common running injuries, such as shin splints, knee pain, and hip issues.
  • Joint Impact: Higher vertical oscillation usually means a harder landing with each step. Over time, this can put extra strain on your joints and muscles.

Measuring Vertical Oscillation:

While measuring vertical oscillation accurately can be challenging outside of a lab setting, where 3D motion detectors are used, there’s still hope for everyday runners. Many modern running watches and fitness trackers now provide data on vertical oscillation.

Although these devices may not be as precise as laboratory equipment, they offer valuable insights into your running form, helping you make adjustments for better efficiency and reduced injury risk.

What is A Good Vertical Oscillation While Running

Vertical oscillation is a key aspect of running, as it is inherently part of the activity’s stance and flight phases. In simple terms, running is a series of transitions between each foot.

During the stance phase, the muscles at the front of the supporting leg engage, and the knee bends slightly. This bending is crucial as it allows the center of mass to shift, propelling the runner forward.

Without this vertical movement, running would involve straight knees, eliminating the crucial flight phase where both feet are momentarily off the ground.

However, it’s important to balance this vertical movement. While a certain degree of vertical oscillation is necessary for efficient running, the primary goal should be maximizing horizontal distance without wasting energy.

Studies and expert opinions generally suggest an optimal vertical oscillation range of about 5 to 10 centimeters. Maintaining vertical oscillation within this range ensures enough movement for effective running mechanics without excessive energy expenditure.

The Science Behind Bounce and Running Economy

As runners, understanding the link between vertical oscillation (or bounce) and running economy is key to enhancing our efficiency and performance. Let’s dive into what scientific studies and expert analyses reveal about this relationship:

2019 Study on Running Economy:

A study from the “Journal of Sports Sciences” in 2019 reinforced this idea. It found a significant correlation between reduced vertical oscillation and improved running economy. Runners with less bounce used their energy more effectively, leading to enhanced endurance and speed.

By focusing on decreasing the up-and-down motion, runners can lower the oxygen cost of running. This doesn’t just enhance performance; it also reduces the risk of fatigue during long runs.

Research on Cadence and Bounce:

A study conducted by the “American College of Sports Medicine” in 2017 delved into the relationship between stride frequency (cadence) and vertical oscillation. The results shed light on the benefits of increasing cadence. Here’s the scoop:

The study suggests that boosting your cadence, which translates to taking more steps per minute, can effectively reduce vertical oscillation (bounce). This reduction occurs because a higher cadence generally leads to shorter airborne time and a faster foot turnover. As a result, your running pattern becomes more stable and efficient.

The Impact of Core Strength on Running Form:

In 2018, “The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy” published a study emphasizing the significance of core strength in maintaining optimal running form. Let’s break down their findings:

The research highlighted the role of core strength in stabilizing the upper body during running. Core muscles, including the abdominals, back, and pelvic muscles, play a crucial part in sustaining a consistent and controlled running posture. This stability reduces unnecessary vertical movement, contributing to a more efficient stride.

How To Improve Vertical Oscillation Running

Improving your vertical oscillation (VO) in running is akin to navigating a journey to an unfamiliar destination. It’s crucial to understand the causes of your current VO, whether it’s too high or too low, as the first step in optimizing your running biomechanics.

Here’s a guide on how to diagnose and enhance your VO, with a focus on optimizing your forward lean for more efficient running:

The Balanced Lean:

  1. Lean from the Ankles: When incorporating a forward lean in your running posture, ensure it originates from the ankles, not the waist. Picture your body as a single, straight line from head to feet, slightly tilting forward at the ankles.
  2. Upright Upper Body: Even as you lean from the ankles, keep your upper body upright. Avoid leaning excessively from the waist or hunching, as this can disrupt smooth movement.
  3. Body Alignment: This forward lean aims to align your body optimally, reducing unnecessary VO and directing your energy towards forward motion.

To effectively optimize your forward lean for efficient running, aim for a modest tilt of about 5 to 10 degrees in your trunk. This angle is the sweet spot for maintaining an upright posture while minimizing vertical movement, thus contributing to a more efficient run.

Imagine a Low Ceiling:

Enhancing your running posture can be effectively achieved by visualizing a low ceiling just inches above your head. This imagery is a useful mental technique to promote a running form with less vertical oscillation and more efficiency. By focusing on moving horizontally and forward, you’ll naturally minimize energy wasted on vertical motion.

To adapt to this “low ceiling,” you’ll instinctively adjust your posture. These adjustments typically involve a slight bend in the knees and a forward lean that starts from your ankles. This approach encourages a more efficient running style, conserving energy that would otherwise be spent on upward movements.

Land Close to Your Center of Mass:

Strive to land your foot almost directly below your knee. Overstriding, where your foot lands too far ahead of your body, leads to increased vertical displacement in each stride.

Your goal is to land your feet closer to your center of mass, ideally under your hips. This adjustment reduces the “breaking” effect associated with overstriding, which contributes to bounce.

This not only minimizes bounce but also decreases the stress on your joints and muscles, reducing the risk of injuries.

Focus on a Quick Turnover:

Improving your running efficiency involves a combination of cadence and stride length adjustments.

Aim for a higher cadence (steps per minute) with shorter strides. This adjustment minimizes the time spent airborne and reduces vertical oscillation. Your ideal cadence may vary, but a slight increase from your natural cadence can be beneficial.

Finding the right balance between cadence and speed is essential. Gradually work on increasing your cadence without compromising your overall running pace. Practice and consistency are key.

Land Softly:

Strive for a midfoot strike when your foot makes contact with the ground. Avoid excessive heel or toe landing. This approach enhances shock absorption and allows for a more natural rolling motion, resulting in a softer landing.

You should also try to maintain a slight bend in your knees upon landing. This knee flexion acts as a built-in shock absorber, diminishing the impact on your joints and reducing bounce.

Maintain Core Strength:

Maintaining a strong core is vital for stability during your runs, and it can significantly reduce unnecessary bouncing. Actively engage your core muscles while running. This engagement stabilizes your upper body, preventing excessive bouncing. Consider adding core-specific exercises to your training regimen to fortify these muscles.

Run Lightly:

Achieving a smooth and relaxed running style can significantly reduce bounce. Imagine running as quietly as possible, aiming to reduce the noise of your footfalls. This mental cue can help you adopt a lighter and more efficient running style.

Perform The Right Drills

Enhancing your forward lean while running can help optimize your take-off angle and reduce vertical oscillation (VO).

Here are practical techniques and drills to achieve a more effective forward lean:

Fall to Run Drill

  • Starting Position: Begin in a neutral standing position with your body upright.
  • Gradual Lean: While maintaining a tall posture, initiate a forward lean from your ankles.
  • Transition to Running: As you lean further forward and reach a point where you feel like you’re about to fall, smoothly transition into running.
  • Benefits: This drill, practiced before your run, helps develop the muscle memory needed for a forward lean without bending at the hips.


  • Strides Definition: Strides are short, fast running repeats typically lasting up to 20 seconds or covering a distance of 100 meters.
  • Focus on Stride Improvement: Use strides as a training tool to concentrate on improving your stride.
  • Neuro-Muscular Adaptation: Strides can enhance neuro-muscular connections, encouraging optimal VO and a more efficient stride.

Wall Drills

Wall drills are an excellent exercise to enhance your forward lean, which can contribute to a reduction in vertical oscillation (VO) during running. Follow these steps to perform wall drills effectively:


  1. Position Yourself: Stand a few feet away from a wall, facing it, with your hands touching the wall at shoulder height. Keep your elbows straight.
  2. Lean Forward: Step back slightly from the wall while maintaining a straight body line as you lean forward.
  3. Single-Leg Raise: Shift your weight onto one leg and raise the knee of the opposite leg toward the wall. Hold this raised knee position for 10-20 seconds.
  4. Maintain Hip Level: Ensure that your hip remains level and doesn’t drop while holding this position.
  5. Return to Ground: Lower the raised knee back to the ground.
  6. Repeat: Perform the same drill on the other leg to maintain balance and symmetry

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