The Elements of Running Part 3A: Integrating Strength Training Into Your Running Routine | Element Physio

Perhaps one of the most appealing features of running is the convenience of the sport itself, which simply involves lacing up and hitting the road or treadmill.  However, for this reason specific strength training can often be neglected leading to pain and injury.

In the blog today, we are focusing on a few of the many strengthening exercises that zero-in on the muscle groups involved in an optimal running stride.

1. It begins in your core!

As with any activity, adequate core stability provides the foundation for peak muscle functioning.  It facilitates balance between muscle tension and length so that their activity is enhanced all the way down the limb.  One of the easiest ways to activate your core is bring your belly-button inward just so that your tailbone is slightly more underneath you.  Think of your pelvis as a bowl where you are aiming for a position that is not too forward or too backward.  Sometimes this can be difficult to learn right away in the standing position, so try it first on a chair or physio ball.

2. Hips don’t lie

There’s a good reason why sprinters are shaped the way they are – much of the running stride is truly all in the hips!  The gluteus maximus muscle functions to extend the hip during the push-off phase of running.  Weakness or inhibition of the gluteus maximus can lead to compensatory extension occurring in other areas, such as the low back, SI joint, hamstrings, or calf sometimes leading to an injury.  A great way to start enhancing your gluteal activity is to start in positions on the floor, such as a bridge or in four-point.

Gluteal strength surely does not end here.  Smaller muscles of the outer hip, called gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, function to control the pelvic and femur (thigh bone) with every step.  An efficient and pain-free running stride should start with a relatively stable pelvis and hip that doesn’t have a lot of up and down movement.  You can monitor this movement by placing your hands on your hips and identifying how much they swing as you walk.  Activate your pelvic stabilizers through a simple hip-hiking exercise.

3. Single leg balance and stability

An important component of running is how well you are able to remain stable on one leg.  Simply stated, running involves a series of brief moments of single leg balance, combined with speed and resistance.  Research shows that with every step in a running stride you are resisting the downward force of approximately 2x your own body weight.  For this reason, single leg balance and stability is vital for protecting muscles and joints from wear and tear.  When you practice your single leg balancing, ask yourself: How much am I swaying?  How long am I able to hold a stable position?  How hard are my muscles working?  Single leg exercises can easily be progressed by adding load, speed, or an unstable surface.

Before introducing any new exercise routine it is important to keep in touch with a health care professional to address your unique health concerns.  Every running injury will present slightly different from the next, and the same philosophy applies to how it should be treated.  If you find yourself faced with a painful stride, it is best to be evaluated by a physiotherapist to determine your particular needs and unlock your true physical potential.