3 Running Strength and Conditioning Exercises you Should be Doing
This blog looks at three simple strength and conditioning exercises and demonstrates how you can use them to become more efficient as a runner, reduce the chance of injury and therefore improve your consistency in running and fundamentally get faster. These are great as strengthening work, or as a bit of fun/challenge to add in to your running training routine.
Before we get into the main part of this blog, the standard disclaimer has to exist: If you are unsure on these exercises, then see a physio and ask them to help your specific needs! With running, there really is no substitute for working with a professional coach and physio if you really want to make significant improvements to your running form. In the meantime though, these short exercises will give you some insight into some things you need to be thinking about as you settle into your off season or can be used to ensure you avoid injury or run more efficiently through a heavy training block. Enjoy!
Lack of lower limb strength and stiffness can be a significant cause of lower limb injuries. Either the mechanics of the foot strike or the ability of the lower limb to withstand forces result in injury. Alternatively, there isn't enough strength endurance to allow your body to keep on using the foot and lower limb when running with good form and you begin to compensate. This may be due to lack of non muscular stiffness – asking the muscles to take over the load carrying role, or due to improper, or unbalanced firing sequence allowing improper function of your lower limb. If you are at all unsure about any of this, definitely see a coach or physio who really understands these mechanisms – or be in touch with us, we are happy to help!
Raise yourself over your big toe. Photo credit of www.thebosworthclinic.co.uk for use of their gym.
How to Calf Raise
You can either add eccentric loading to this exercise by hanging your foot off a step, or do these from standing on a flat surface (heel raises).
You should do one foot at a time, unless you really struggle
You can use one finger to balance
Raise your heel so the weight is on the ball of your foot and you are pushing through your big toe, keeping your leg straight.
Lower yourself again back to the starting point.
Swap legs after a set number of reps.
You can add complexity by hanging your foot of a ledge.
Photo credit www.thebosworthclinic.co.uk for use of their gym.
Key points to look out for:
Are you going up onto your big toe? If not, are you losing balance by going on the outside of your foot?
Are you able to get all the way up, or do you give up half way and don’t take the full range of motion
Do you feel fatigue after less than 30?
Work on control and stability up and down
Can you do it with a bent knee (works soleus more)
How many times can you fit this into your week?
Add hopping or being more explosive/skipping
What bounces more on a hard surface when dropped from height? A sponge or a ball bearing? Clearly the ball bearing. This is because it has a higher coefficient of restitution or better conservation of energy through a more elastic collision. There is very little wasted effort going laterally from a re-bounce! You want to run like a ball bearing and be efficient. Every time you go over uneven ground or land, you need to balance: the better your balance, the more efficient you are. Propriopreception is essentially balance and without it you are losing efficiency.
The more stable you are, the more efficient you are and also, the less chance you have of picking up an injury.
It is as easy as standing on one leg... Photo credit www.thebosworthclinic.co.uk for use of their gym.
How to work your Proprioception
Stand on one leg
Close your eyes
Stand on a wobble board with one leg
...then close your eyes
…what about hopping doing the above
...what about jump squatting?
...what about holding a calf raise?
Key points to look out for:
This is core in a whole different way! You should see a very quick improvement as you do this from eyes open to eyes closed. This can also be a really fun thing to do with friends. The purpose is to challenge your body to remain in control, so you will know when you don’t have this right (you will lose balance!).
Make anything up! The above method is very much a development process each step, but you can add more difficulty by increasing the complexity of the movement, slowing things down, speeding things up, moving
Put bands on knees to pull you laterally as you do the movements,
Jump on and off wobble boards (Use a cushion instead if you dot have a wobble board at home)
Ask someone to push you slightly as you do the movements
Create more complex movements: lunges, squats, running man etc
Do it all more slowly
Do it quicker (stabilise quicker)
Anything to challenge your stability: Planks swiss balls etc using the above process of eyes shut and less stable platform.
Lunges are a great single leg workout which combine stability, effective strengthening and firing of the glute muscle. Therefore if you couple them with calf raises, you can ensure knee stability and thus effective running power as well as some quad work too. They are also versatile: they can be used as a warm up, as a training exercise with bodyweight, or brought into stability workouts like the proprioception work and of course used in a pure strength or plyometric fashion as well.
Ensure you are holding good form and keeping aligned. Photo credit of www.thebosworthclinic.co.uk for use of their gym.
How to Lunge
Split your legs apart: one in front of the other, about shoulder width apart and slightly further than a normal walking pace. Ensure your front knee remains stable above your ankle (inline with your second toe) and sink downwards keeping your front knee where it is until your knees are at about 90 degrees. (If your knee goes forwards, it is just posing! Use your hands to balance, or hold weights as you do this exercise. If you don’t have need of your hands, then follow the same running movement (left knee, right hand forwards) etc. Lower to where your knee is hovering over the ground and then raise yourself back up again. Repeat on the same leg for multiple repeats alternatively, swap legs each time.
Key points to look out for:
Is your knee staying still (not moving forwards or laterally)?
Is there any pain? Sometimes pain can be indicative of tightness or overuse elsewhere, so this is great self check to flag up any issues and get them dealt with before they become more than a niggle or worse.
As you come up, drive the back knee forwards like during your running and finish on your big toe squeezing your glutes – Perfect for improving running form.
Develop speed/power conversion through plyometrics (This has to be done carefully and not just introduced. There is a very strong chance of injury here if done incorrectly.)
Use a stability disc to challenge your stability, fall forwards into the lunge to work on eccentric loading or tendon strengthening.