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Run Stronger, Run Longer: Decoding the Biomechanics of Mobility and Strength Training

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


Over the years, I've realized that running isn't just about clocking miles but about preparing and strengthening your body to handle those miles efficiently and safely.


In this blog post, I will delve into the importance of exercises that go beyond the running trail. I will also provide you with videos demonstrating how to perform critical exercises. I believe that integrating these exercises into your training routine can dramatically improve your performance, prevent injuries, and ultimately allow you to enjoy running even more.


Article Index


Mobility Exercises

Strength Exercises

Training

Conclusion & References

 

Mobility Exercises for Runners: A Biomechanical and Anatomical Perspective


From a biomechanical and anatomical viewpoint, mobility exercises are pivotal in optimizing a runner's performance and injury prevention strategy. Mobility, or the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion, is an underpinning factor that significantly influences running biomechanics. Enhancing this joint mobility directly influences stride efficiency, neuromuscular coordination, and kinetic chain functionality.


Let's dissect each exercise from my “Top Mobility Exercises for Runners” video to appreciate their biomechanical and anatomical impact better:

  1. Leg Swings: This dynamic mobility exercise targets the hip joint, enhancing both sagittal and frontal plane mobility. By activating the hip flexors and extensors, leg swings improve the functionality of the muscles, such as the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and gluteus maximus, directly contributing to improved stride mechanics.

  2. Alternating Forward Lunge With Twist: This multi-joint exercise promotes sagittal plane mobility and rotational mobility of the spine. The forward lunge aspect targets the hip flexors, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles, while the twist engages the intrinsic muscles of the spine and the obliques. This combination optimizes the co-contraction of muscle groups essential in running, enhancing overall stability.

  3. Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch: Given the repetitive nature of running, the hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas group, can become tight, potentially altering pelvic tilt and running mechanics. This dynamic stretch aids in improving the extensibility of the hip flexor muscle group, promoting optimal anterior pelvic tilt and stride length.

  4. Ankle Mobility: Ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion are key components of a runner's gait cycle, contributing to shock absorption and propulsive forces. Ankle mobility exercises increase the range of motion and flexibility in the gastrocnemius, soleus, and surrounding ligaments, mitigating the risk of overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinopathy.

  5. High Knees: This exercise primarily serves as a functional warm-up, dynamically engaging the hip flexors and extensors while also promoting proprioceptive awareness. It fosters better neuromuscular control and coordination, producing a more efficient and biomechanically sound running pattern.


In essence, these mobility exercises are critical in optimizing the biomechanics of a runner's movement pattern. Irrespective of whether you're a novice or an experienced marathoner, integrating these exercises can have profound impacts on your running economy, injury resilience, and overall performance.


Video Demonstration

Welcome to "Top Mobility Exercises for Runners" - your guide to enhancing your running performance through targeted mobility exercises. This video delves into various exercises like Leg Swings, Alternating Forward Lunges with Twist, Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch, Ankle Mobility, and High Knees.


 


Strength Exercises for Runners: A Biomechanical and Anatomical Perspective


Running, by its very nature, involves a complex interplay of biomechanical processes and the application of force. As such, strengthening exercises are indispensable components of a comprehensive running program. These exercises enhance the runner's power generation capabilities and improve biomechanical efficiency and injury resistance.


To delve into the specifics, let's dissect each exercise from the “Run Stronger, Run Longer: 6 Top Strength Exercises for Runners” video and explore their biomechanical and anatomical significance:


  1. Suitcase Squat: This compound exercise recruits multiple muscle groups, particularly the quadriceps, glutes, and erector spinae, simulating the eccentric and concentric contraction phases associated with running. By incorporating a weight held at the side (as in carrying a suitcase), it additionally challenges lateral stability, emphasizing the role of the body's stabilizing muscles.

  2. Reverse Lunges: This unilateral exercise aids in rectifying muscular imbalances, a common issue among runners that can lead to suboptimal biomechanical patterns. Targeting the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings primarily, reverse lunges mimic the alternating nature of the gait cycle, enhancing muscular strength and control in the sagittal plane.

  3. Glute Bridges: Predominantly targeting the posterior chain, specifically the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, this exercise promotes hip extension strength, a critical aspect of the propulsion phase of running. Enhanced hip extension strength can improve stride length and running speed.

  4. Russian Twists: This core exercise is crucial for improving rotational stability, a key element in maintaining efficient running form. The engagement of the obliques and transverse abdominis during the twist motion can enhance torsional control during the gait cycle, preventing excessive energy loss through lateral and rotational movements.

  5. Clam Shells: Targeting the gluteus medius, an essential muscle in maintaining pelvic stability during running, clam shells can aid in preventing Trendelenburg gait, a common issue in runners that results in inefficient biomechanics and potential injury.

  6. Calf Raises: This exercise enhances the strength of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which is critical during the 'push-off' phase of running. Improved calf strength can enhance force generation, increased stride length and running economy.

Integrating these strengthening exercises into your training regimen can enhance your muscular power and biomechanical efficiency. This equips you to run stronger and longer and ensures a more resilient musculoskeletal system, capable of withstanding the repetitive strains inherent to running.


Video Demonstration

Welcome to "Run Stronger, Run Longer: 6 Top Strength Exercises for Runners." This video is your guide to building strength and endurance, specifically catered to the unique demands of running. With exercises like the Suitcase Squat, Reverse Lunges, Glute Bridges, Russian Twists, Clam Shells, and Calf Raises, we'll target key muscle groups that contribute to a robust running form.


 


Incorporating Mobility and Strengthening Exercises into Your Training Regimen


Once we recognize the significant impact that both mobility and strengthening exercises can have on a runner's performance and injury prevention, the question that naturally arises is - how should we incorporate these into our training schedule for optimal results? This involves a careful balance of periodization, load management, and understanding the interplay of these exercises with the body's biomechanical processes.


Periodization and Exercise Selection: Effective training goes beyond simply randomly incorporating exercises into your routine. A well-planned periodization strategy, where the intensity, volume, and type of exercises are systematically varied over specific periods, can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Exercises should be selected and sequenced considering their functional relevance to running biomechanics. For instance, integrating mobility exercises before a running session can help prepare the body for the forthcoming biomechanical demands. Meanwhile, strengthening exercises can be performed post-run or during non-running days to promote muscular adaptations without interfering with running-specific training.


Balancing Mobility and Strength Training: Both mobility and strength training play integral roles in enhancing running performance, and balancing the two is crucial. While mobility exercises ensure joint range of motion and efficient force transmission, strength training enhances the muscles' ability to generate and withstand these forces. Overemphasizing one at the expense of the other can lead to suboptimal performance and increased injury risk. Thus, a well-rounded program should integrate both types of exercises.


Progressive Overload and Recovery: Just like running training, mobility and strengthening exercises should follow the principle of progressive overload - gradually increasing the intensity, volume, or complexity of exercises over time to stimulate continual adaptations. However, these adaptations occur not during exercise but during recovery. Hence, adequate rest and recovery should be built into the training plan, allowing for muscle tissue repair and neural adaptations.


Individualization and Adaptation: Finally, every runner is unique in terms of biomechanics, injury history, and performance goals. Thus, exercise selection, sequencing, and progression should be individualized to the runner's specific needs. Regular assessment and modification of the program are necessary, ensuring that the exercises remain effective and relevant as the runner's fitness level and biomechanical efficiency evolve.


By taking a strategic, balanced, and individualized approach to incorporate mobility and strengthening exercises into your running training, you can optimize your running biomechanics, enhance your performance, and build a robust defence against running-related injuries.


 


Conclusion


As we've dissected and analyzed, the principles of biomechanics and anatomy clearly illustrate mobility and strengthening exercises' profound impact on a runner's performance and injury prevention. These exercises are not mere supplements to your running regimen - they're fundamental elements that contribute to the optimal function of the complex and interconnected kinetic chain involved in running.


By effectively integrating mobility exercises, we enhance joint flexibility and neuromuscular coordination, leading to smoother and more efficient running patterns. On the other hand, targeted strength training increases our muscles' capacity to generate and withstand the forces associated with running, culminating in improved running economy and resilience against injury.


However, incorporating these exercises into a runner's training program must be thoughtful, balanced, and personalized. It's essential to manage exercise selection, periodization, progressive overload, and recovery, all while considering each runner's unique biomechanical attributes and goals.


 

DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author


Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.

 


Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!


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Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.


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References


  1. Cook, G. (2010). Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies. On Target Publications.

  2. Fredericson, M., & Moore, T. (2005). Muscular balance, core stability, and injury prevention for middle- and long-distance runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics, 16(3), 669-689.

  3. Heiderscheit, B. C., Sherry, M. A., Silder, A., Chumanov, E. S., & Thelen, D. G. (2010). Hamstring strain injuries: recommendations for diagnosis, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 40(2), 67-81.

  4. Kibler, W. B., Press, J., & Sciascia, A. (2006). The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports Medicine, 36(3), 189-198.

  5. McGill, S. M. (2007). Low back disorders: Evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Human Kinetics.

  6. Powers, C. M. (2010). The influence of abnormal hip mechanics on knee injury: a biomechanical perspective. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 40(2), 42-51.

  7. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A prospective study of running injuries: the Vancouver Sun Run “In Training” clinics. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(3), 239-244.

  8. Willy, R. W., & Davis, I. S. (2011). The effect of a hip-strengthening program on mechanics during running and during a single-leg squat. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 41(9), 625-632.

  9. Winters, M., Blake, C., Trost, J. S., Marcello-Brinker, T. B., Lowe, L., Garber, M., & Wainner, R. (2004). Passive versus active stretching of hip flexor muscles in subjects with limited hip extension: a randomized clinical trial. Physical Therapy, 84(9), 800-807.

  10. Verstegen, M., & Williams, P. (2004). Core performance: The revolutionary workout program to transform your body and your life. Rodale.

  11. Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and practice of strength training. Human Kinetics.

  12. Legg, H. S., Glaister, M., Cleather, D. J., & Goodwin, J. E. (2017). The effect of weightlifting shoes on the kinetics and kinematics of the back squat. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(5), 508-515.


 

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