We know that strength training will compliment your running. Building strength in the right places will help you generate power and get your body used to the impact, reducing the risk of injury. And while this is definitely important, the strength may count for nothing unless we have a sable base to from which to use it. Here, we are taking a look at stability exercises.
Why are stability exercises important? Well, as mentioned in my strength article [link], there is a lot of force being absorbed by your body every step you make. When you go from walking to running this force increases/multiplies and the area of the foot contacting the ground changes too. Having stability in the right places in going to protect your body but also make it better able to transfer the power through the body and deliver it where needed. Strong and stable is much better than weak and wobbly when it comes to running. So, if we lack stability, we will have to work harder on each step and the energy we’ve exerted trying to move forward, will instead be focused on keeping the body upright.
Cross body balance reach
My first stability exercise is a single leg balance, cross body reach. Rolls off the tongue, right? This may be new and look lightly odd at first. While balancing on one leg, we want to dip the knee and reach around hip height across the body with the opposite hand. In this exercise, we are targeting the glutes. Despite being our biggest muscle and all-round power house of the human body, the glutes job is to stabilise the knee and make sure it doesn’t go too far forward or cave inwards.
The deeper we bend the knee the harder we work the glute, and loading the glutes up in this way will teach them to decelerate motion of the knee. This deceleration is the key to providing stability at the knee joint and allowing the body to absorb the impact of our running stride.
Overhead Travelling lunge
The overhead traveling lunge takes a basic exercise you may be familiar with and adds an extra level of complexity. Using a barbell for this move adds another level too as the fixed position will force more work through the shoulders and upper back to stay upright and also requires good thoracic extension (something I’ve mentioned a few times and will touch on later)
The traveling aspect of this move means that we are again more dynamic. By having to pull your bodyweight forward rather than pushing back to where you started, we make the exercise more akin to real running. With the weight overhead, your core will also have to be in overdrive to keep you from falling over. Overall, a great exercise to work upper body, lower body and core stability.
Plyometric jumps and landings
Plyometric or jump training is another method you may not have seen or done before. Classically we think of jumping in terms of how high we can jump. And while that is useful for generating power though your lower body. Here we are focusing on the landing and the carry over that has to conditioning the body for the impact of running. If you’re just starting out with plyometrics I would stick to using both feet until you feel confident to go to single leg variations that we share the load across both feet and don’t overload too quickly. When we land, upwards of 7 times bodyweight goes though the feet ankles and calves.
Absorbing the impact of landing, loading up those muscles in order to rebound jump will condition the body to give you maximum power on each step. The more efficient we can put power down through the road the more power we get coming back up from ground reaction force and therefore more propulsion going forward.
When looking at strength and stability, they are not individual ideals we want to strive for. For effective and improved running, we need to work these aspects together. The strength can only be fully utilised if we have the necessary stability to transfer the power and these exercises are a great way to condition your body to better, stronger and faster running.
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