A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and, as I like to say, a runner is only as strong as her weakest muscle. In the chain of muscles used when running, a relatively weak muscle can increase your risk for injury, reduce your ability to absorb and produce force and possibly negatively impact your running efficiency. Unfortunately, running alone will not correct this imbalance, and in fact, it might make this relative weakness worse.
Use this five-exercise workout to target these weak points to ensure you stay healthy during the base building phase. Do this workout three to four times per week in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a softball and a step roughly eight to 12 inches high. Do one set of each exercise in succession with minimal rest, then complete three to four total rounds.
Photos: JP Mullowney
Exercise 1) Pelvic List
Why: To improve hip muscle strength and pelvic stability during single leg stance
How: Stand on one leg on a dumbbell or on an elevated surface (~2 to 6 inches). Let your hips shift out towards the side as your non-stance leg reaches for the ground. Next, use your hip musculature to return your hips to the center and level position. Your non-stance leg will appear to move away from the ground. Focus on using your stance leg hip musculature to recenter your pelvis.
Do: 20 reps per side
Exercise 2) Calf Raise Ball Squeeze
Why: To improve lower leg and foot strength
How: Stand on a step with your feet parallel while squeezing a softball between your heels. Hold on to a rail and perform a calf raise. Squeeze the ball in between your heels as you go as high as you can on the balls of your feet. Emphasize pressure over your big toe. Lower your heels back down, lower than the step.
Do: 15 reps
Exercise 3) Single Leg Hip Lift
Why: To improve strength of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings
How: Lie on your back in front of the step. Place one foot on the edge of the step while keeping your opposite leg in the air. Push into the edge of the step to lift your hips. Fully extend your hips and squeeze your glute strongly at the top.
Do: Hold the top of the rep for 10 seconds, then perform 10 dynamic reps. Next, hold the top of the rep for 8 seconds, then perform 8 dynamic reps. Continue this hold/rep style of counting, counting down to 2. Then perform a set on the other leg.
Exercise 4) High Plank Shoulder Tap
Why: To improve strength and stability of your anterior core
How: Go into a high plank with your hands beneath your shoulders and your toes wider than your shoulders. Expand your upper back and tuck in your hips. Brace your abs and glutes. Next, lift one hand and touch your opposite shoulder without moving your body or losing your position. Slowly put your hand down and switch sides.
Do: 10 slow reps per side
Exercise 5) Split Squat with Overhead Reach
Why: To strengthen your legs while lengthening your hip flexors
How: Stand in a lunge with your front foot flat. Ensure you’re on the balls of your toes with your rear leg. Bend your knees to lower your rear knee towards the ground while reaching upward and slightly behind you. Push your hips forward to lengthen your rear leg’s thigh and hip flexor.
Do: 15 reps per side
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CK, CSCS is a regular contributor to TMC and has been a Certified Kinesiologist and Strength and Conditioning Specialist for over 15 years. He co-owns a gym in St. John’s called JKC (www.JKConditioning.com).
This story originally appeared in the Sept., 2022 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada