To kick off 2020 we asked strength, nutrition and run coach Matthew Gagliano to help us get into some good habits with strength training - an important element for runners who want to stay fit and healthy for years to come. In the first of four articles, Matt focuses on stabilization and core strength.
The founder of The Stronger Runner explains; “One of my first goals when coaching my runners is to assess and develop dynamic core strength. When it comes to injury prevention it’s one of the most important elements involved in the overall routine of runners of any level, so I would love to see you implement the appropriate exercises into your workout regimen.
The role of the core or musculature in the torso when it comes to athletic performance is enormous. It provides stability so your body can be more efficient at performing the tasks we ask of it (like running), it supports good posture (especially during distance running), and provides muscular endurance to help with injury prevention.
Many say lack of time is a main reason for missing this part of your training but if you can spare just 10-15 minutes, four to five times a week (about one to 1.5% of your day!) I am sure you and your running will reap the benefits.
STARTING POINT - ASSESSMENT
Anytime you want to delve into a fitness program it is wise to begin with an assessment to determine where to start and how to progress. Here’s a simple assessment for core strength:
● Lay down prone on the floor
● Raise your thumbs to your collarbone (clavicle)
● Bring hands away from body so that your elbows are raised to a 90º angle
● Keeping your body completely straight, try attempting a push up (If you have pain, STOP)
● If you can't do this you’d begin with stabilization exercises (keep reading)
● If you can do it but you break form (especially at your waist) you’ll also start with stabilization exercises.
● If you can do this in a fashion that seems like your body levitated off the ground and you can hold an isometric plank for over a minute without stopping you can proceed to dynamic stabilization exercises.
● If you have pain you should see a physical therapist.
ELIMINATE POOR EXERCISES
Not all exercise routines are created equal. In fact, your exercise program may be doing more harm than good. I often find some of these may actually be hurting, not helping so you may want to take a break from some of these:
● Russian Twists
● Leg Extensions
● Hamstring Curl Machine
● Adductor/Abductor machine
● Side Bends
● Leg Press (when using both legs)
● Pulldowns (with bar behind neck)
Stabilization exercises build foundational core strength.
All too often the mindset is to train until you feel the “burn”. However, when doing core stabilization exercises you’ll be more likely to start shaking before you start “burning”. That’s because these exercises strengthen the deeper muscles in the core region like the transverse abdominals.
Some of these you’ll be familiar with such as planks and side planks. But I have included a few you may not be familiar with like the Pallof Press.
● Side Planks
● Bridge Holds
● Pallof Press
● Stability Ball Plank
● High Plank
You should feel that you’re standing with better posture the day after performing these exercises.
DYNAMIC STABILIZATION TRAINING
Once you’ve gone through a few weeks of core stabilization routines you should be ready to progress to the most important part of core training which is dynamic stabilization exercises.
Dynamic stabilization allows your body to be more efficient. The stronger your core is at supporting your torso while you run, the less energy it has to use correcting the torso, robbing you of performance as well as speed.
Here’s some great places to start or to enhance your current training:
● Stir the Pots
● Bridge Marching
● Side Plank Rotations
● Side Plank Rows
● OH Band Halos
● Kneeling and Split Squat Chops
● Plank Walkouts
● Farmer Carries
● T Rotation Planks
Start implementing these exercises immediately and start decreasing the likelihood of facing any of the common running injuries.
Explanations for all of these exercises can be found on here along with a two-week stabilization program for you to try. Good luck and run stronger.
Find out more about Matthew’s training programs at www.thestrongerrunner.com and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
Header image courtesy www.freepik.com