How to Improve Your Vertical Oscillation for Better Running Performance: 5 Tips + What’s a Good VO?

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Vertical oscillation refers to the up-and-down movement of a runner’s body while in motion. It is the measure of how much a runner’s center of mass rises and falls with each stride. This movement is primarily influenced by the runner’s running form, biomechanics, and muscle strength. Vertical oscillation is often described in terms of centimeters or inches, representing the distance between the highest and lowest points of the body’s vertical displacement during each running stride.

Why is Vertical Oscillation Important for Runners?

Understanding and optimizing vertical oscillation is crucial for runners because it directly affects running efficiency and performance. Here are a few reasons why vertical oscillation is important:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Excessive vertical oscillation can lead to wasted energy as the body moves inefficiently. The more energy wasted in vertical movement, the less energy available for propelling forward, which can negatively impact running speed and endurance.
  2. Injury Prevention: High vertical oscillation increases the impact forces on the body with each stride, potentially increasing the risk of injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and knee pain. By minimizing vertical oscillation, runners can reduce the stress on their joints and minimize the risk of overuse injuries.
  3. Running Economy: Vertical oscillation is closely linked to running economy, which refers to the energy cost of running at a given pace. Research has shown that runners with lower vertical oscillation tend to have better running economy, meaning they require less energy to maintain a specific pace compared to runners with higher vertical oscillation.

The Ideal Range for Vertical Oscillation in Running

While the ideal range for vertical oscillation can vary depending on factors such as body type, running style, and terrain, there are general guidelines to consider. It is generally recommended to aim for a vertical oscillation of around 6-10 centimeters or 2.5-4 inches. This range is considered optimal for most runners as it strikes a balance between minimizing wasted energy and maintaining efficient forward propulsion.

It is important to note that vertical oscillation is not a one-size-fits-all metric. Some runners naturally have a slightly higher or lower vertical oscillation due to factors such as leg length or running style. However, if your vertical oscillation falls significantly outside the recommended range, it may be beneficial to work on improving it for better running efficiency.

5 Tips to Improve Your Vertical Oscillation

  1. Strengthen Your Core and Lower Body Muscles: A strong core and lower body can help improve running form and minimize unnecessary vertical movement. Incorporate exercises such as planks, squats, lunges, and calf raises into your strength training routine to target the muscles involved in running.
  2. Focus on Cadence: Increasing your cadence, or step rate, can help reduce vertical oscillation. Aim for a cadence of around 180 steps per minute, as this has been found to optimize running efficiency and minimize vertical movement.
  3. Work on Your Running Form: Proper running form plays a crucial role in minimizing vertical oscillation. Focus on running tall with a slight forward lean, keeping your shoulders relaxed, and engaging your core muscles. Avoid overstriding and aim for a midfoot strike to promote a more efficient running gait.
  4. Incorporate Plyometric Exercises: Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps and bounding drills, can help improve your power and explosiveness, reducing unnecessary vertical movement. These exercises train your muscles to generate force quickly and efficiently, leading to a more efficient running stride with reduced vertical oscillation.
  5. Get Feedback from a Running Coach or Video Analysis: Seeking feedback from a running coach or using video analysis can provide valuable insights into your running form and vertical oscillation. A coach can help identify any areas of improvement and provide specific exercises or drills tailored to your needs.

By implementing these tips and consistently working on your running technique and strength, you can reduce vertical oscillation and enhance your running efficiency and performance.

Strengthening Exercises to Reduce Vertical Oscillation

Strengthening exercises that target the core, lower body, and muscles involved in running can help reduce vertical oscillation and improve running efficiency. Here are some effective exercises to incorporate into your training routine:

ExerciseTargeted Muscles
PlankCore muscles, including abdominals and lower back
SquatsQuadriceps, hamstrings, glutes
LungesQuadriceps, hamstrings, glutes
Calf RaisesCalves
Step-upsQuadriceps, glutes, hip flexors
Hip ThrustsGlutes, hamstrings

Perform these exercises with proper form and gradually increase the intensity and resistance as your strength improves. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each exercise, 2-3 times per week.

Proper Running Form to Minimize Vertical Oscillation

Proper running form is essential for minimizing vertical oscillation and improving running efficiency. Here are some key elements of good running form:

  1. Posture: Maintain an upright posture with a slight forward lean from the ankles. Avoid slumping or arching your back.
  2. Arm Swing: Keep your arms relaxed and bent at a 90-degree angle. Swing them forward and backward in a coordinated motion, avoiding excessive side-to-side or cross-body movement.
  3. Foot Strike: Aim for a midfoot strike, where your foot lands slightly below your hips. Avoid overstriding, which can lead to excessive vertical oscillation.
  4. Cadence: Strive for a cadence of around 180 steps per minute. This helps reduce ground contact time and promotes a more efficient running stride.
  5. Relaxation: Stay relaxed throughout your body, including your shoulders, face, and hands. Tension can lead to wasted energy and increased vertical oscillation.

By focusing on these aspects of proper running form and practicing them consistently, you can minimize vertical oscillation and improve your overall running efficiency.

How to Track and Analyze Your Vertical Oscillation

Tracking and analyzing your vertical oscillation can provide valuable insights into your running technique and help you make necessary adjustments. Here are some methods to track and analyze your vertical oscillation:

  1. Wearable Devices: Many modern running watches and fitness trackers offer built-in accelerometers and advanced running metrics, including vertical oscillation. These devices provide real-time feedback and allow you to monitor your vertical oscillation during runs.
  2. Running Apps: Numerous running apps, such as Strava and Garmin Connect, allow you to track and analyze your running performance, including vertical oscillation. These apps often provide detailed post-run analysis and can help identify trends or patterns in your vertical oscillation.
  3. Video Analysis: Recording yourself running and analyzing the footage can provide visual feedback on your vertical oscillation and running form. Slow-motion playback and frame-by-frame analysis allow you to identify any areas that need improvement.

By utilizing these tracking methods and regularly analyzing your vertical oscillation, you can gain a better understanding of your running technique and make necessary adjustments to optimize your performance.


Q1. What causes high vertical oscillation in running?
High vertical oscillation in running can be caused by factors such as poor running form, weak core and lower body muscles, overstriding, and lack of body awareness. Addressing these factors through proper training and technique can help reduce vertical oscillation.

Q2. Can vertical oscillation be completely eliminated?
Vertical oscillation is a natural component of running, and it cannot be completely eliminated. However, it can be minimized through proper running form, strength training, and improving running technique.

Q3. Does shoe choice affect vertical oscillation?
Shoe choice can indirectly affect vertical oscillation by influencing running biomechanics and cushioning. Shoes with excessive cushioning or instability may contribute to higher vertical oscillation. It is important to choose shoes that provide proper support and are suitable for your running style.

Q4. Is there an ideal vertical oscillation for all runners?
The ideal vertical oscillation can vary among runners due to factors such as body type, running style, and terrain. However, a general guideline is to aim for a vertical oscillation of around 6-10 centimeters or 2.5-4 inches.

Q5. Can reducing vertical oscillation improve running performance?
Reducing vertical oscillation can improve running performance by enhancing running efficiency and economy. With less wasted energy on vertical movement, more energy can be directed towards forward propulsion, leading to improved speed and endurance.

Q6. Can strength training help reduce vertical oscillation?
Yes, strength training can help reduce vertical oscillation by targeting the core and lower body muscles involved in running. Strengthening these muscles improves running form and stability, leading to reduced vertical movement.

Q7. How long does it take to improve vertical oscillation?
The time it takes to improve vertical oscillation can vary depending on individual factors such as fitness level, training consistency, and body mechanics. With consistent training and proper technique, improvements in vertical oscillation can be seen within a few weeks to a few months.

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