Monday, February 21, 2011

Strength Training for Stronger Running

In addition to a balanced training program, proper running shoes, and a good stretching routine, strength training is integral to a well-balanced and healthy running program. Weak muscles, namely those in the core, glutes and hips, are often to blame for nearly all overuse injuries. Even injuries that may seem to have nothing to do with these muscles- knee problems, foot injuries, etc. often originate from a strength imbalance in the core and hips. Unfortunately, strength training is often the first thing runners let slip when trying to fit in workouts throughout the week. But strength training does not require a gym or a lot of time- in fact, the most effective strength training is functional strength training, or training the body for the activities performed in daily life (sitting, standing, etc.) Here are four functional strength training moves you can do at home with no equipment:

Planks: A plank is an excellent strength exercise for the core stabilizers (internal abdominal muscles). Get in a push-up position, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders. Keep your abdominal and glute muscles stable and keep your spine and neck aligned in a neutral position- do not let your head or hips drop. If you are unable to support yourself on your hands, you can modify the exercise and support your weight on your elbows, or even drop your knees to the ground. Hold for 30-60 seconds, lower and repeat 3-5 times.

Squats: Squats are a great multi-joint exercise, targeting the hips, glutes, hamstrings and quads. When doing a squat, your weight should be in your heels and knees should be directly over the toes and pointed in the same direction (if your knees track outside or fall inwards, you are putting yourself at risk for a knee injury). Maintain a neutral (straight) back position and keep your head and chest up. Squat down as far as comfortable, but no further than hips in line with knees (or thighs parallel to the ground). Imagine you are sitting on a chair- you can even place one behind you for guidance. Come back up, and repeat ten times, working up to thirty reps over time.

Lunges: Like squats, lunges are another exercise that targets just about every muscle in the lower body. To do a static lunge, place one foot forward and one back, approximately 2-3 feet apart. Keep your chest and head held high and raise up onto your back toe. Bend knees and lower your body until the back knee is a few inches from the floor, and both knees are bent at about 90 degrees. At the bottom of the movement, the front thigh should be parallel to the floor and the back knee should point toward the floor. Do not let your front knee track in front of your toe, and keep your weight evenly distributed between both legs while you push back up, pushing into the heel of the front foot. Repeat for 10 reps (working up to a max of 30) before switching legs and repeating on the other side.
Push-Ups: Push-ups work your upper body, primarily the chest, deltoids (shoulders) and triceps in addition to the core. You can perform a push-up on your toes or knees, or even standing up against a wall or high box. Keep your wrists in line under your shoulders, engage your core, and bend your elbows to lower yourself to the ground (or into the wall) before pushing back out again. Do NOT cross your ankles. Remember to keep your neck and spine in a neutral (straight-line) position- don’t strain your neck to look up or let your hips sag to the ground. Repeat ten times, working up to a maximum of three reps of 10.
Perform these strength training moves 2-3 times per week, and you will see improvement in your strength and running!

No comments:

Post a Comment