| Article written on July 17th, 2016 at 11:47am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
Supplementing your training with functional movement is important in a sport that is becoming more competitive. Nowadays, the ability to go out and be the best is extremely difficult, as areas like nutrition, technology, functional training, and recovery are raising the bar. That is why I teach my clients how to cheat the outcome. If we know that adding proper functional movement training can reduce race time, help prevent the likelihood of injury, and improve recovery after long runs, why not incorporate these methods more readily into your training program?
With all of that being said, which exercises deserve your fullest attention? In the following videos, I will show you the 5 most beneficial exercises for distance runners. They all require a certain degree of strength, but also enhance mobility, stability, balance, and power. When exercises have a big bang for their buck, the reward is worth the effort.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
The single leg romanian deadlift has long been touted as a beneficial exercise for runners. It aims at improving single leg balance and stability, hamstring flexibility, hip strength and stability via the gluteals, and has a big carryover to running. With that being said, I always recommend progressing from the wall hip hinge, romanian deadlift, and finally to this single leg version. It’s not the exercise but it’s execution that is of most value to runners.
The lateral squat is one of those exercises you don’t find in too many programs. It’s because people fail to see it’s effectiveness due to it’s frontal plane focus. But, that’s exactly why it’s needed. Runners spend all of their time moving forward, or as we like to call it, in the sagittal plane. This repetitive movement pattern often leads to tightness, restriction, and weakness in other muscle groups that aren’t put through their full range of motion.
The hip adductors and abductors in particular are targeted within the lateral squat from both a mobility and strength standpoint. Even though the lateral squat may not be the most specific exercise to running, it’s great for challenging multiple planes of movement and promoting overall function.
The split squat may be one of my most prescribed functional movements. When you look at a person throughout the running cycle, it’s easy to see the similarities with this movement. One leg forward, one leg back (split stance). The need for hip mobility and stability. Balance and control at all times.
Oftentimes people bypass the split squat for more challenging single leg movements such as the rear foot elevated split squat or single leg squat. This is a mistake. Ensuring stability and alignment first with the split squat will have a huge carryover to runner. Not to mention it can also be used as a self-assessment to see any discrepancies in strength, stability, or mobility side to side.
Repetitive hopping and plyometric movements have a place in all running, functional training programs. The ballistic nature of running requires a certain level of lower limb tissue stiffness to quickly store energy and create an elastic response.
Oftentimes, when strength becomes too much of the focus, runners fail to incorporate power-based and plyometric movements. This is not only important from a performance standpoint, but also injury prevention. Having the resiliency in the calf and lower extremity to handle thousands of ground contacts is important to reduce the likelihood of injury.
We all have this love/hate relationship with the pull-up. For years, we have heard how it’s such a beneficial exercise, but it’s difficult. The question is, is it important for runners?
Developing adequate upper body strength has been shown to carryover to better running performance. The arms don’t swing themselves, and therefore incorporating a strong and coordinated upper body arm swing can significantly improve your running. Not to mention the pull-up strengthens the muscles in the upper back which contribute to a healthy posture.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART