As runners, we spend a lot of time training to get fit in order to run further or faster. Most runners do not spend the same amount of time training to be more efficient at running or to be less at risk of sustaining injury. This is where running specific strength conditioning can play a significant role.
When conditioning runners, I focus on 4 key strength aspects which should be trained in the following order:
- Pelvic Stabilisation
- Plyometric Power
Part 1: Posture
The first step is to work on improving posture. Many of the every-day actions we perform, such as; sitting for many hours, carrying a handbag or laptop bag on one shoulder, picking up our child or grocery bags mainly with our strongest side and even many hours driving a vehicle, can adversely affect the first two aspects of runner’s conditioning, namely Posture and Pelvic Stabilisation. These every day activities can create an instability in the pelvis / trunk area over time, as we are likely to spend more time repetitively performing these actions than we spend training our bodies to run efficiently.
Often when runners do decide to include strength training in their regime, they start at the Strength and Plyometric Power level, which could exaggerate any postural instability that might be present, and we could have the perfect recipe for an injury. For trail runners, core posture and stability is even more important, because trail runners face the effects of uneven terrain and they required lateral movement involved in trail running.
What is “Posture” and how do we strengthen this? Correct running posture involves:
- Keeping the spine straight and the shoulders back while maintaining a slight forward lean from the core
- Keeping the torso stable and avoiding counter-productive movements, such as head-bobbing, body swaying, arms crossing in front of the body, etc.
- The runner should be able to control their posture while staying relaxed in all muscle groups that are not involved in running, such as the jaw, neck, shoulders and hands
This sounds like a tall order but don’t worry about thinking of each of these things individually while running. The good news is that if the muscles required to hold the spine and core stable are strong enough, all of this happens correctly and automatically while you run.
The following diagrams show the muscles that help runners maintain good running posture:
- A. Transverse Abdominis
- B. Internal Obliques
- C. External Obliques
- D. Rectus Abdominis
- E. Multifidus
- F. Erector Spinae
- G. Gluteus Medius
- H. Gluteus Minimus
The following three exercises target the required muscles to strengthen your posture and are suitable for all levels of runner:
Muscles used: Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Trapezius, Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Oblique, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Psoas
Start the bird dog by positioning yourself squarely on all fours, knees positioned under your hips and wrists beneath your shoulders. Your shoulders, back, and hips should remain as level and flat as possible through the exercise. The exercise is to be done in slow and controlled movements.
Contract your stomach and gluteus muscles to prevent your back from sagging or from arching. Lift your opposite arm and leg to the point where you can maintain your lower back and hips parallel to the floor using your core muscles. If your hip lifts or your back arches or sags, lower the leg and the arm a little. Hold the position for approximately 10 seconds.
Slowly bring your arm and the leg down and inward so that your elbow and your knee touch under your body. Hold the position for approximately 10 seconds. This is the last position of one bird dog repetition. Return to the starting position for the next repetition.
Muscles used: Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique
Start seated on the mat with knees drawn up and toes lifted. Lean back to approximately a 90 degree angle with your knees. Place your hand palms together at the height of your chin. The movement should be slow and controlled.
Rotate your shoulders and hands as far as you are able to, to the side. Try to keep your thumbs in line with your chin. Hold the position for approximately 10 seconds. This is the last position of one russian twist repetition. Return to the starting position for the next repetition.
Muscles used: Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus
Start lying down prone on the mat with your arms and legs extended. Contract your stomach and gluteus muscles during the exercise. The movements should be slow and controlled.
Lift your arms, shoulders, chest and legs up to the quadriceps off the mat and hold your arms and legs in this position for approximately 10 seconds. This is the last position of one superman repetition. Return to the starting position for the next repetition.
If you would like to know more about strengthening your postural muscles, click on contact me.