This is going to be a two part series on postural strength, and basic strength training for runners and triathletes. It is by no means meant to be a full program, but rather part of program and a way to get started building some better strength and stability for endurance athletes. Also, keep in mind, although these are what I would consider basic exercises, there is some risk involved and I highly encourage you to keep your safety in mind when doing these. Above is a video I made that explains all of the exercises I'll go over in this blog, and it has a few more advanced things in it as well.
First up, I want to address the term "postural strength." I stole this from Vern Gambetta, the wise old grandfather of strength and conditioning, at least that's how I think of him. The reason I use this term instead of "core" strength is the image it puts in your head. Often times when we say "core," people immediately think of six pack abs. If we use the term "postural strength," it puts a more complete image in our heads of what being in nice tall posture should like. It's important to understand that there are several different groups of muscles that work together to maintain our posture, and that we need to learn how to hold our posture and maintain stability when running, swimming, strength training, etc...
I should also address the term "stability." Stability not only refers to our ability to not fall over and keep our balance, but in this context, I'm referring specifically to the stability of our pelvis and spine. Are you able to keep a neutral spine and pelvis when running? How much shift is happening in that area when one foot hits the ground as opposed to the other? We can get more in depth here, but for now, I want to keep it simple and in the context of what is relevant to endurance athletes. Though I don't like to say that doing x,y, and z will prevent injury, or that strength training is injury prevention, I will say the stronger and more stable your body is, the less likely you are to get injured.
Core work is important for everyone, even more so for endurance athletes. Often times breakdowns in form come from breakdowns in postural strength. The longer the duration of an event, the more likely the breakdowns are going to happen at some point. The stronger our abs, back, hips and glutes are, the greater our ability to maintain good mechanical form over time will be, and the greater our efficiency will be as well.
You'll probably notice there are no crunches, planks or trunk twists in this post. There are two reasons for that; everyone knows those, and your abs should be working in all of these exercises. You want to keep your abs engaged the whole time, and when I say engaged I mean they are working, but not squeezing super hard or "flexing." At no point should your abs just be hangin' out all loose and jelly like. Use your abdominal muscles to keep your ribs closed towards the center line of your body. They should not be splayed out and visible through your shirt. Also, do not use your diaphragm to push your belly out and brace your abdominal wall. Lastly, things do not always have to be super hard to be effective. A lot of these exercises are not as taxing as a plank or something else. The main thing is to get the movement correct and pay attention to details, which takes time and repetition. This work should be done at a medium to slow tempo. Faster is not better here. The video has a few more of the do's and don'ts, so be sure and check it out (Side note, those are shadows not sweaty pits in case you were wondering).
|Single Leg Pelvic Lift|
You'll do the next series on your side, doing all three exercises on one side before repeating the same series on the opposite side.
|Single Leg Lift|
|Single Leg Bicycle|
Again, make sure to complete all the 3 previous exercises on one side and than the other before you move on. Keep the reps equal on both sides, be mindful of how hard one side is versus the other.
As you can see, a lot of this work is in a different plane of motion as compared to running. This helps to build stability, and also helps to loosen the body up by moving in different directions than most people are used too. One set of this series is plenty for a short workout, and you don't have to do 10 reps if it's super difficult (train don't strain!). You can do 1-3 sets if you would like, but I find doing 1 full set 4-6 days a week to be more effective. Like any other training we do, consistency is king! If you are new to this type of work, I suggest doing it on its own and seeing how hard is for you. As you get stronger, you can use it as a pre-run warm up to get the core working, but not necessarily fatigued, before you run. I like to do it in the mornings with some stretching before I get going. It really helps wake me up, but also helps me feel better throughout the day. Try it out, video yourself and compare to me to check your form. Feel free to contact with me questions through our website.