In my work as a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, I see a lot of runners with a huge lack of understanding about the importance of good pelvic and abdominal strength and control.
So why do we need this? It’s simply a question of efficiency.
You will know from experience that if we practice a movement over and over, we will get much more efficient in that movement. It just gets a little harder with running because it’s a more complex movement, and unlike other skills, we rarely stop when our technique starts to break down, we just carry on running with a less than ideal technique. This leads to inadequate motor learning and, potentially, injury too.
However, if we can practice exercises that give us a greater degree of stability through the pelvis and lumbar spine, and a greater degree of co-ordination in our lower abdominals and deep abdominal wall, we will experience less unwanted movement through this area, and less stress on the surrounding tissues.
This means, not only will our gait (running pattern) be improved, but we will also be able to maintain a better technique for longer. In addition, we will also reduce the stress on our lowwe back, hips and knees too.
If you find your low back, hamstrings, neck/shoulders are often tight after running (or maybe this causes you to stop your run early), then this routine is great for you.
As an exclusive to Women’s Running readers, I have created a downloadable PDF, for you to print out and have next to you while you do the workout. You can download this here. Complete each exercise as per the suggested number of reps/sets as stated on the PDF.
Horse Stance Horizontal
•Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
•Bend the elbows a little so that your spine is horizontal.
•You will notice the wooden dowel on my back. This is a great tool to use as it allows you to ensure you have the right setup (i.e, stick touching the head, between the shoulders and the sacrum). It also allows to you feel any unwanted rotation of the spine/pelvis as the stick will roll if your technique isn’t perfect.
•Draw the belly button inward a little and slowly lift the arm and opposite leg.
•The arm should come to a 45-degree angle to your body, while your leg extends straight back. Focus on squeezing your bum as you extend the leg.
•Hold for 5 seconds and slowly return to the start position.
•Repeat on the other side.
Single Leg Hip Hinge with Band Pull
•Standing with your feet together and soft knees, hold a resistance band out at arms length with your thumbs pointing away from each other.
•Slowly hinge at the hips, lifting one leg behind and keeping your torso in line with the leg you are lifting.
•As you start the hinge, you can start to stretch the band by opening the arms and drawing the shoulder blades together.
•If you don’t have a band you can perform without. Just squeeze your fists and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades.
•Hold for 2 seconds and then slowly lower to the start position.
•Alternate between left and right legs, until you have completed the desired number of reps.
Static Lunge with Lumbar Feedback
•Hold a resistance band (or your wooden dowel) behind your back with one hand in the lumber spine (at belly button level), and the other behind the neck. If you are using the stick, it should touch the back of the head, between the shoulder blades, and the sacrum (base of the spine).
•The hands are being used to sense the pressure between the band (or stick) and the lower back. Therefore, your aim is to ensure that there is no change in pressure.
•Step forward into a split (lunge) stance. The back heel should lift and your hips and shoulders stay square.
•Draw the belly button inward slightly and lower your back knee towards the floor.
•Perfect form is the key here, so if you feel your posture starting to change, stop and slowly come back up. With practice you will be able to lower the knee all the way to the floor.
•Perform all reps on your weaker leg first and then repeat the same number of reps on the other side.
•This is a really simple exercise, but is easy to misinterpret. Our goal is to use the muscles around the thoracic spine (upper back) and neck, NOT the lower back or legs.
•Lie face down with your arms at your sides.
•Slowly extend the upper back, slightly tuck in the chin (think of holding a pencil under your chin), and externally rotate the arms so your chest opens and your shoulder blades move towards each other.
•Don’t try to squeeze too hard. Our goal is to increase our endurance in these postural muscles, so we should look to increase the amount of time we can hold the position. Start with 20 or 30 seconds and work up from there.
•Again, the lower back, glutes and legs should be relaxed. If you feel tension in your lower back it means you are trying to lift too high.
Lower Ab Leg Drop
•Lying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, place your hands under your lower back so they fill the space between back and floor.
•Lift the feet so that you have a 90-degree angle at both the hips and the knees.
•Tilt your pelvis back (think about slightly flattening the lower back until you feel some pressure on the hands). Make sure you don’t lift your bum.
•Once we have this pressure, our aim is to hold it steady throughout the movement.
•Draw the belly button inward slightly and slowly lower one foot towards the floor. Remember to keep the same pressure on the hands.
•If you feel the pressure dropping, try to correct it, or stop and raise the knee back to the start position.
•Alternate legs and repeat the desired number of reps.
•You can make this exercise easier by reducing the knee angle (or harder by increasing the knee angle).
Paul Smethurst is a Personal Trainer, CHEK Practitioner, and Holistic Lifestyle Coach based in South Kensington, London, UK. Through his “Fitness Geek’ blog, Paul has also produced an online coaching program. To find out more, and for more training advice from Paul Smethurst, visit: thefitnessgeek.tv. You can also contact Paul via Twitter at @FitnessGeekTV