Are you planning on running a marathon? Whether you run every day, a few times a week or are a weekend warrior, below are the 10 best exercises you should do in order to improve your running economy (RE) and remain injury free.
RE refers to the “energy demand for a given velocity” at a submaximal level (Saunders, Pyne, Black & Hawley, 2004). This is determined by measuring your oxygen consumption (VO2) during a steady state, and your respiratory exchange ratio (Saunders, Pyne, Black & Hawley, 2004). Think of RE as if you were driving a Tesla, you are in a fast car that can go the distance in terms of fuel economy.
To maximise your running potential strength training is vital…
Undertaking strength training will ensure your body can handle the physical load placed upon it, this will help to prevent injury, increase cardiovascular performance and reduce the severity of fatigue. The following 10 exercises should become staples to any runner’s program. Plyometric’s and Olympic Lifting have not been included here, however once base levels of strength and technique have been achieved by working with a highly skilled Performance Coach, then they too would become part of this list.
Deadlift – Deadlifts are arguably one of the best exercises for any athlete or individual training for an event or for general fitness. They develop total body strength with a focus on the posterior chain “the framework to an injury proof body”.
Squat – Squats are a total body compound exercise with a primary focus on the lower body. Benefits from squatting include an increase in strength and muscular endurance, meaning you will be able to run longer without feeling muscular fatigue, they increase your cardiovascular fitness due to their high metabolic cost to perform and they also build on mobility which will transfer to your running.
Lunge – Performing the lunge is a great way to increase coordination and balance while developing strength to support the joints. Lunges can be performed in a variety of ways so it is important to seek coaching from a qualified practitioner to maximise your training potential.
Single Leg Squat – Single leg squats are a great unilateral (single leg) exercise to build proprioception.
“Proprioception allows us to understand where our body is in space and time at any given moment. Our sense of sight, sound, hearing and touch cooperate for us to perform a task” (Verkhoshansky & Siff, 2009).
Single leg squats transfer across to running as when we run, we are never on both feet so the proprioception developed reduces our risk of injury.
Glute Ham Raise (GHR) – GHR help to prevent injuries such as ACL tears and hamstring strains. They strengthen the posterior chain through knee flexion and hip extension and they enhance your speed and jumping abilities. Further, the GHR is a great way to de-load your spine while training the lower body, so are great if needed for injury management as there is minimal force placed upon it.
Glute Bridge – Glute bridges are a great exercise to use for activation and to stabilise the core while in extension, this in turn significantly reduces the risk of injury. Glute bridges should be incorporated in your warm up program to enhance your RE.
Palloff Press – The palloff press is an exercise that develops strength through our core. This will improve total body strength and function while reducing the risk of injury. It can be done at home with any form of resistance band.
Banded Rows – Banded rows are another exercise that can be done at home away from the gym. In order to run a marathon, it is essential to have good posture that can be sustained throughout the run. Once we start to fatigue we can feel heavy’ by leaning forwards and slouching, which will decrease your efficiency to run. Banded rows will support your posture by strengthening those back muscles that assist us in standing upright.
Bent Leg Calf Raises & Bent Leg Calf Raises in a Static Lunge Position – It is essential to strengthen and condition the calf muscles for running in order to prevent injury. Strengthening these muscles will help them absorb the physical stress placed upon them. According to (SMA) 17% of runners sustain calf related injuries. A common reason why calf injuries occur is due to the stressed placed on the muscle when it is lengthened and contracted.
Cat/Cow Stretch – Cat cow stretch is a great exercise to perform during your warm up and cool down. It incorporates flexion and extension of the spine in a dynamic pattern and has many benefits such as stretching the spine and neck as they can become stiff during and after a long run to improving posture.
The majority of these exercises develop the posterior chain which are the muscles running from our back, all the way down to our calves. The posterior chain is not only essential for athletic performance, but it is the foundation of what makes us move from walking, to running, jumping and pulling. As mentioned earlier, there are many other exercises that can be added to the 10, from mobility work, plyometric training and Olympic weightlifting, however these exercises require guidance from a qualified coach. It is recommended to seek medical clearance before starting any exercise program. Come in and see us at Absolute Health & Performance to help prevent injuries and enhance your athletic performance on the track or field!
“Don’t dream of winning, Train for it” – Mo Farah
Written by Performance Coach Michael Velianis
Saunders, P. U., Pyne, D.B., Black, R. D., & Hawley, J. A. (2004). Factors affecting running economy in trained distance runners. Department of Physiology: Australian Institute of Sport, 34(7), 465-85.
Sports Medicine Australia. (2016) Running Fact Sheet: Retrieved from http://sma.org.au/resources-advice/sports-fact-sheets/running/
Verkhoshansky, Yuri., & Siff, Mel: (2009). Supertraining (6th ed.). Rome: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.