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The 100 Up Exercise: The Ultimate Running Drill?

So, you’ve heard some buzz about this “100 Up” exercise and want to know if it actually is the ultimate running drill.

The 100 Up exercise was presented by Walter George in 1874. George was a 19th-century British runner who set a number of records for running the mile.

His mile time of 4:12.

This record was held for almost thirty years! He credits his incredible success to the 100 Up exercise and later wrote a book to share his secret with the world. 

Years and years later, Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, brought the exercise back into mainstream training as he found it to be very effective himself. 

In an interview with Adharanand Finn from the Guardian, McDougall said that when his form tends to get really sloppy and he needs to sharpen it up, he turns to the 100 Up exercise.

He even stops in the middle of a run if necessary, takes off his shoes, performs this running drill to spiff up his form, and then continues on his way. 

There you have a bit of history about the 100 Up exercise and where it all began, but you are probably still asking yourself, what is the 100 Up drill, and how can I do it? 

In this guide, we will explain the 100 Up exercise and why it can be helpful to your general running performance and form

We will discuss: 

  • What Is The 100 Up Exercise?
  • Benefits of the 100 Up Exercise 
  • How To Do The 100 Up Drill Properly: Minor and Major
  • Is the 100 Up Exercise the Ultimate Running Drill? 

Ready? 

Let’s jump in!

runner stretching their quad

What Is The 100 Up Exercise?

Many runners overlook the importance of running drills and how they can help us improve our form and overall running performance. 

This is understandable, considering most serious runners have a full training schedule without much time to spare.

We tend to run six times per week, squeeze in two to three strength training sessions, focus on healthy nutrition, and try and get eight to nine hours of sleep a night.

Busy, busy bees we are. That is quite a time commitment. 

This is often why things such as stretching and extra drills can be overlooked as we are most likely rushing off to work or to drop off the kids at school after our workouts.

Thinking about adding anything else, such as running drills, can be overwhelming and feel just impossible.  

person doing a knee up 100 up

However, there is a way to do it without adding a running drills session to your weekly plan.

You don’t need to carve out extra time to do the drills on their own, but can use them as your dynamic warm-up before each running workout! 

Instead of, or in addition to the usual dynamic exercises you use before you run, throw in a couple of running drills to kick that form into shape before you head out.

Just be sure to include the 100 Up exercise. 

Now let’s see what this drill is all about:

The 100 Up exercise will remind you of high knees, but it’s not actually high knees. 

Instead, it’s more of marching or skipping in place using an exaggerated running form, taking great care of the placement of your feet, and swinging your arms as you would if you were running. 

woman running on the beach with exaggerated arm drive

One of the great benefits of the 100 Up drill is that you can do it absolutely anywhere. It should only take about a minute or two to complete, and no equipment is needed. Not even running shoes

If possible, it is best to perform this drill barefoot as it will help use the correct foot strike for the drill, which is forefoot.

Being barefoot when performing this drill will force you to land on your midfoot or forefoot instead of heel striking, the first step to a more efficient running technique.

It will also help you keep a short stride and excellent foot placement by lading directly under your center of gravity instead of out in front of your body. 

Benefits of the 100 Up Exercise 

According to McDougall, the 100 Up exercise is a great way to improve and polish your running technique.

Performing this exercise right before your run will prime you for successful form throughout. And if it begins to fall, do what McDougall does and take a 100 Up exercise break in the middle of your workout.

man running on the beach

More specifically, the 100 Up exercise is beneficial to add to your pre-run routine because it: 

  • Improves running form and technique, which in turn improves your running economy.
  • Warms up and strengthens the specific muscles used during the running movement. 
  • Can help reduce the risk of injury by improving technique and warming up the muscles before a workout.
  • Can be done absolutely anywhere with no equipment. 
  • Creates muscle memory to prepare you for your workout.

Performing these types of technical drills before your workout can make you more aware of your running technique and form.

It will provide you with a quick reminder of what you should pay attention to as you are running.

It’s one thing for someone to tell you what your running form should look like and another to actually break it down and practice it by doing.

Let’s get into how we actually do the 100 Up exercise. 

man doing 100 up running drill

How To Do The 100 Up Drill Properly: Minor and Major

There are two versions of the 100 Up exercise, the minor and the major.

As you can probably imagine, the minor is the slower, more beginner version, while the major is basically the same movement but amped up a bit in terms of speed.

Let’s take a closer look at the step-by-step instructions for each one. 

100 Up Minor Drill 

  1. Stand tall with your core engaged, shoulders back, and feet at hip-width apart. 
  2. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees into your natural running arm swing position.
  3. Drive your right knee up to hip height while simultaneously driving your left arm forward and up and right arm back in an arm swing, as if you were running. 
  4. Return your foot to the starting position, landing on the ball of your foot, and place it directly underneath you. 
  5. When your right foot is planted on the ground, repeat the same movement on the left leg. 
  6. Alternate legs for 100 repetitions, 50 per side. 

Note: If you are new to this exercise or a beginner runner, you can begin with fewer repetitions, gradually increasing them each time you perform the 100 Up drill.

Start with 20 reps, take a break, and then perform a few more. The second you feel you are losing the correct running technique and foot placement, take a break and start up again when ready. 

a woman warming up at home

Also, be sure that when performing the 100 Up exercise, you stay in the same place. You should not move forward, backward, or side to side, but place your feet directly beneath you in the same place each time. If you need to add some sort of a marker to track it in the beginning, feel free to do so with a piece of tape or some sidewalk chalk.

When you feel comfortable with the 100 Up minor and can do all one hundred repetitions without taking a break, move on to the 100 Up major. 

100 Up Major Drill 

In this version of the 100 Up exercise, we pick up the pace, but always ensuring our form remains flawless. 

  1. Stand tall with your core engaged, shoulders back, and feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees into your natural running arm swing position.
  3. Drive your right knee up to hip height while simultaneously driving your left arm forward and up and right arm back, as if you were running. 
  4. As you return your foot to the starting position, begin to lift the other foot and drive the left knee to hip height. 
  5. Alternate legs, switching quickly for 100 repetitions, 50 per side. 

Note: This will feel more like you were actually running in place rather than marching, as in the minor version. You want to be already lifting the resting foot at the other one is returning to the ground.

You can check out a video from Christopher McDougall’s website, showing us the proper technique for both the minor and the major 100 Up drills.

a woman running on the track

Is the 100 Up Exercise the Ultimate Running Drill? 

What have you decided? Is it worth adding the 100 Up exercise into your pre-run routine

Honestly, I feel great performing this drill before beginning my workouts. I not only feel as though it warms up all of my muscles, gets my blood flowing, and raises my heart rate, but it also ensures I will at least begin focusing on proper technique when I take my first steps. 

Give it a try, and see if the 100 Up drill begins to benefit your running workouts.

For other dynamic warm-up exercise staples, check out our 15 dynamic exercises for runners guide that you can add to your pre-run routine.

man out running
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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