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Stop, Think and then ‘Do Strength’.

As part of our ‘Stop, Think and then Go Run’ series we take a look at one of the most missed areas of running training: Strength-Stability. It is key to resilience, good technique and injury prevention. As to aiding speed and endurance, well, yes definitely.

So by strength-stability we are specifically working on two key areas that will ultimately help out running.
– Strength is our ability to exert a force. To push for example when running up hill.
– Stability is our bodies ability to distribute our weight more evenly, to run with a pelvis that is level and a body that has a slight tension to it. In other words without excess twist, a drop to one side, knee rotation or side to side wobble.

To ‘Run Tall’ requires strength, not running with overlly bent legs in an almost run-squat position. Therefore to not be too relient on our quads. I often refer to running as requiring 360o leg use – all the muscles in use at the right time in the right way.

The other benefit of strength-stability is that it activates our muscles in the right way and in the right order. Leading athletes often go through a regeime of not just strength work with weights, yet also a regeime that includes activation exercies. Pilates is especially good for this and some aspects of yoga too.

So where to start?
I have put together our favourite and most commonly prescribed and suggested exercies, from both the coaches and the physios I work with. It is a starting point or for the more experienced an excellent activation set.
Volume wise it is always dificult to say, ‘You should start with this’, without seeing someone. The key is always to do just enough. In other words always finish a ‘set’ (volume) knowing you could do more. As soon as your technique starts to fail then you have done too much. Yes, you may still be able to get into the correct position through using the wrong muscles, but whjat’s the point? Ask yourself, ‘Are you trying to train the correct muscles or the compensation muscles?’
As a general guide a good way to start is in sets of either 5 or 10, sometimes it may 3 if you are really new to all of this.  Building the sets takes time, over a number of weeks. Yes, arguable I am cautious, yet it does ensure your risk of excess fatigue is reduced and therefore injury as a result.
You are also likely to find that as you start to strengthen and activate those muscles they start to work more efficiently when you run. That too will fatigue them, so don’t over do it.
On easy training weeks, or the week before a race, back of any strength work.Take it easy and recover. It could be the week of a race you do no strength, during a recovery week a third of your normal volume.  It’s finding what works for you.
You can read more about this in the recent article ‘Stop, Think and Then Go Run’ here

Each exercise should be completed with slow and deliberate movements. Technique is key. They are best done after a nice easy run warm up (short and easy), followed with mobility work. If this is your first time then start just once a week, perhaps building to twice a week.
If you intend to plan more strength work into your running program then a great time to build strength is during a period of no racing and aerobic training.

Six, for Starters.
Each of these suggested strength-stability exercisies can be easily modified to make them harder. Usually through destabilising the body.
Don’t expect your technique to be perfect everytime, that will be something you are likely to be working on everytime. Even with our ‘Active Modals’ for this article it occasionally took more than one photo, and even then… Thank you to Debbie and Harvey, ‘looking good’.
That said, let’s get started.

1. Glute Bridge – Good for glutes, hamstrings and back
Lie on the floor on your back bringing your heels as close as possible to you bottom. Your knnes will be bent and in line with your hips, through to your feet.
Begin by squeezing your butt muscles (glutes) and then slowly with great control lift your hips into a bridge. Your back should be straight, not curved.  If it is then there’s a good chance that your back muscles have taken over. If this is the case then lift to the point that you feel your back starting to curve.
Hold for a second then slowly lower to the floor using your glutes.
Start with either 2 x 5, or 1 x 10 repitions.

Glute Bridge #1 Glute Bridge #2

2. Calf Raise – Yep, this one works your calfs.
Stand on a step, just the front of your foot and toes.  Keep your legs straight and heels lowere than the step. Push through your toes rasing you heel. Keep the movement slow and controlled, then lower back down.
Start with either 2 x 5, or 1 x 10 repitions.

Calf Raise #1 Calf Raise #2

3. Plank Routine – Front and Side Plank alternate. Works your core and legs.
Front Plank: Lie on your front, lift from your toes and onto bent arms, hands in front of you. Keep your body nice and straight.
Hold for either 10 or 20 seconds.
Side Plank: Lie on your side with bent arms once again, lifting from your feet. Keep your body nice and straight – no sticking your bottom out.
Hold for either 10 or 20 seconds, each side.
The routine is: Front Plank, Left side plank, front plank, right side plank, front plank.

Front Plank Side Plank

Some may find their starting position is from their knees

4. Dead Bugs – Best for back and tum muscles in particular
Lie on your back, keeping it flat. To get to the starting position raise your legs off the floor one at a time – Hip to knee to foot with each at 900 to the other. Then raise your arms straight up with your fingers pointing to the stars above.

DeadBug #1

You must now keep your back on the floor. Start by lowering and raising each arm in turn. Then straighten one leg at a time and then return to the start position.
If you find this easy then try ‘opposites’ – lower your left ram and right leg at the same time.  Then your right arm and left leg. Again your back must stay flat on the floow – no arching.  If you feel your back arching then try not to lower your leg as far.

Dead Bug #2 Dead Bug #3

5. Hamstring Bridge – Great for your hamstrings, whilst working your glutes and back.
Similar to the Glute Bridge except place your heels on a chair. Begginers may find a foot stool is high enough.  Keep your legs slightly bent at the knee.
Begin by squeezing your butt muscles (glutes) and then slowly with great control lift your hips into a bridge and as you do so straighten your legs. Your back should be straight, not curved.  I.  Hold for a second then slowly lower to the floor using your hamstrings and then your glutes.
Start with either 2 x 5, or 1 x 10 repitions.

Hamstring Bridge #1 Hamstring Bridge #2

6. Stork to Reverse Lunge – All leg work out, especially hamstrings and quads.
Stand tall, lifting one leg, bent at the knee – Hip to knee to foot with each at 900 to the other.
Now using the leg which is at right angles step backwards and lower the knee to the floor. Keep your body tall, no bending at the hips. Keep the movement controlled and then return to one leg standing.
Start with either 2 x 3, 2 x 5 or 1 x 10 repitions.

Reverse Lunge #1 Reverse Lunge #2

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