Published Jan 21, 2013 « Back
These 5 exercises will help the all runners to take your running to the next level through adding strength and efficiency to key muscle and joint groups. Completing these exercises regularly will make your running style more efficient, keep you injury free and will therefore make you run faster, for longer.
Let me be clear here; I am not writing about professional athletes who are competing. Here I am just talking about your "average Joe" runner who enjoys a good mostly long distance running. I am not advocating that long distance running is the best way to reach any fat loss goals either as it's most definitely not. If I was writing about a full time athlete then I would be suggesting that more specific training methods like sequencing/biomechanics, breaking down the movements and prescribing movement patterns and exercises.
I have picked these exercises from experience with clients and athletes I have, and what I have learnt from others. The experience of training people who are not looking to become the next Mo Farah just yet but want to get more out of their running. These are my top five that will help every runner. The short video at the bottom of this article will show you all the exercises.
Here i'm talking about multi directional squats. A normal squat working with your feet in just one static position just doesn't make sense. When running, your feet along with the rest of your body will go in multiple positions, especially if cross country running is your chosen type of running. Multi-directional movement training is also very important in functional sports - but we'll save that as an article for another day!
So, when you drop down keep moving. Move your feet, move your hips, move your body! Dont be afraid to overload one leg rather than the other. This simple yet effective way of squatting without going into to much detail will build up your glutes, legs, core and move your hips. Flexion in the hips is a very important part of running which is strangely often over looked.
Believe it or not, this also fits in with your lifestyle. How many people when they squat down to pick up their shopping, squat in perfect form with their feet shoulder width apart? If you did this at your local supermarket you may get some funny looks!
Similar to the squat, I'm talking about multi directional lunges. Lunging in just one plane of movement with your bones and muscles moving/rotating in the same way each time is not replicated when you are running. When running, your bones, muscles and joints often rotate in different directions. So why not train like this?
Lunging in this way will mimic the movements that the muscles, joints and bones feel when running. Lunging in the multiple directions ensures you don't become a stiff rigid runner. Muscles are reactive not pro active, your traning should mimic this.
Your muscles, bones and joints can adapt to the different range of movements that they may feel when moving. In doing these you will also make sure the glutes are firing therefore taking away the stress from the lumbar region and the hamstrings which if called upon too often can cause injury. Another important part of this exercise is the way it builds up the Vastus Mediulus (VMO). The VMO is making sure your pettella is tracking and is key for stabilisation of the knee (but you don't need to know that!)
Not enough people that run practice hopping. It relates to any sport with running in. Hopping mobilises the ankle, knee, hip and back mimicking the shock absorbing nature of the running movement in a safe environment. Running is a single legged sport - meaning a lot of force going through one leg at a time. It is good to train in the single leg mode to strengthen your leg and core. It also 'switches on' your glutes and VMO. Your VMO is a very important running muscle that is often over looked. If your VMO is not active or weak it can cause many injury problems for runners the most common being Patello Femoral Syndrome (PFS).
When hopping you can hop on the same leg, hop from side to side or hop in multiple directions. Moving your bones, joints and muscles in multi plane movements and rotations.
With or without a weights this exercise is effective. The main emphasis of this exercise being the activation of the glutes and the flexion of the hips. The glutes need to be 'switched on' to ensure when your hip goes into extension the correct muscles fire at the correct time. This ensures the back and hamstring are not having too much stress go through them which would result in injury and poor performance.
When performing the single leg dead lift make sure you squeeze your glutes on the way back up. If you're unsure that you are engaging your glutes a good way to do it is to pretend you are clamping something between your bum cheeks. This may sound crude but it ensures your glutes are contracting.
Running isn't all about your legs. Your core is just as important. Your back acts as a shock absorber when running taking a pounding every step you take. Making sure this is mobile and not "locked" is important to every runner. Activating your core will also enhance the central nervous system (CNS). By enhancing this you will in return perform at a higher level.
When performing lateral rotations make sure you keep your core 'tight'. Im not a fan of the expression but for this its important. Pretend you're holding in a wee to contract your transverse abdominal (TA).
These five exercises will help every runner out there no matter what level. However, they are more beneficial to the runner looking to take their running to the next level. You can perform all the exercises with or without weights. I advise you master them without weights first of all.
These exercises should form part of your running routine. They should be completed on the days you are not running, twice or three times a week in an ideal world, for 30 minutes each time.
The combination of each exercise is designed to work your muscles and move your joints in each plane of movement. They are designed to strengthen and move your body, making you stronger and improving your range of movement. Working the whole body with the main emphasis being the glutes, VMO, hips, core and ankle. Every muscle, joint and bone is important when running but I believe the ones I've singled out can be wrongly neglected. They all play a huge part when running in their own way. Get these areas strong and mobile and your running will improve.
Please also note that stretching and rolling is also vital to get the most out of these exercises and your running. Ironing out tightness and impingements.
If you complete and persevere with these exercises, I guarantee you will see improvement in your running.
Happy running! Train smart.