Top 10 Exercises for Runners

Steve Canning
on
February 15, 2021

Following the success of our recent event for runners, we are delighted to be sharing the exercises we took everyone through on the night. Below are the exercises deemed by our running expert and leading physiotherpist, Steve Canning, as the 'Top 10'.  

Running Man

Description
A really good warm up exercise prior to other exercises +/or running.

Method
Stand up straight on the floor. Transfer your weight onto the leg you would like to exercise. Gain your balance with your knee softened. Maintaining your balance, raise your other knee up in front of you. Bring your opposite arm forward and the other back at the same time. Bend your stance leg as you lower your elevated leg back down and behind you, bending your body forward at your hips. Allow your arms to swap over. Control your balance as you bring your elevated leg back forward and up and repeat the motion. There is no need to rush this exercise, the focus is on keeping your balance.

Variations
You can vary the speed and range you go through

Benefits
Takes the joints and muscles through a large range of motion

Squat

Description
The squat is one of the most fundamental exercises we can do for leg strength

Method
Goblet squat – with a weight:
Hold on to the dumbbell, keeping it close to your chest. Step your feet wide apart and turn the toes out slightly. Drop down into a deep squat position, dropping your hips straight down past 90 degrees, keeping your feet on the floor. Control the movement back to the start position

Variations
Easier: Body weight, With gym ball at wall
Harder: Single leg, Pistol squat (see Exercise 9), exercise band

Benefits
Mainly focuses on building quadricep strength. Highly important for running form and protecting the joints

Single Leg Deadlift

Description
One of my favourite exercises which works on strength, flexibility & balance

Method
Stand up straight balancing on your affected leg. Lift the other leg and hold it straight behind you. Bend forwards at the hip so that your body moves towards the foot on the floor. Your elevated leg should move backwards at the same rate. Make sure you move through the hip and that you keep your spine in neutral. You may feel the back of your legs working particularly on the way down. Move at a steady rate before you slowly return to the standing position again

Variations
Easier: Using support for balance
Harder: Add weights, Add twist

Benefits
As this provides benefits to strength, flexibility & balance for the posterior chain. Ticks all the boxes!

Soleuis Heel Raise

Description
In my opinion the soleus is an unknown and underrated muscle, as it is very important to your running form

Method
Stand on your affected leg with your knee slightly bent and your heel flat on the floor. Keeping your knee slightly bent, rise up onto your toes, and control the movement as you lower your heel back down.

Variations
Double leg or single leg
Bodyweight or Kettlebell

Benefits
This works the strength of an important postural exercise which impacts on your ground contact when running

Single Leg Bridge

Description
A great exercise for working on hip / gluteal strength

Method
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
Your knees and feet should be hips distance apart. Raise one leg off the floor. With the other, raise your toes off the floor so that you are just resting on your heel. Tighten your buttock and abdominal muscles as you lift your hips up into the air. Ensure your hips remain level and that the side on your elevated leg does not drop down. Control the movement as you lower back to the floor and repeat. Ensure you remain on the heel of one foot throughout.

Variations
This can be made easier by starting on both legs. Varying the distance your foot is from your hips will affect the difficulty. Arms on the floor is easier than arms crossed on chest or even raised in air. You can also do with a weight held to make it tougher

Benefits
Focuses on glut strength, which is important for speed and form

Side Plank Hip Abduction

Description
An exercise that works on strengthening your gluteal muscles

Method
Lie on your side with your legs straight. Place your top foot in front of your bottom foot on the floor. Lift yourself up on your side using the lower arm with the hand on the floor. Your hips will come up off the floor until your body is a straight line from your head to your feet. Lift your upper arm directly up so that it is in a vertical position. Maintaining control with your body, lift your top leg up and down. Do not allow your body to sink or wobble too much. Relax and repeat.

Variations
Easier = weight bear through knee
Harder = Lift top arm vertically, use exercise band

Benefits
Strong gluteal muscles lead to a level pelvis and good running form

Wide Lateral Hop

Description
Introduces some plyometric training, along with balance /
coordination work

Method
Stand up straight with a clear area to your sides. Stand on one leg. Hop away from this leg, taking a large stride in the air to land on your other leg. Quickly reverse, hopping back to the starting leg.
Repeat the movement, hopping quickly from one leg to the other with as little time in the landing position as possible. Ensure your knee travels forward over your toes as you land and does not drop in.

Variations
Alter the speed of the exercise or the size of the step

Benefits
Plyometric strength training leads to improved strength and efficiency

X Hopping

Description
Hopping is a simple and effective exercise to benefit running

Method
On your affected leg, make an X pattern.
Hop across, centre, up, and across.

Variations
Hop onto alternate feet, high hopping, hop over a line / bar

Benefits
Hopping helps build plyometric strength

Single Leg Pistol Squat

Description
An advancement of the squat to work on 1 leg at a time

Method
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Transfer your weight to stand on one leg. Maintaining your balance, squat down on one leg, pushing your hips back behind you. Your other leg should hover in front of you with a straight knee. Lift your arms forwards to help you counterbalance. Tighten your abdominal, buttock and thigh muscles to return to standing. Pause briefly, and repeat.

Variations
Smaller range with band

Benefits
Quadricep strength + strength and flexibility in full pistol squat

Pigeon Stretch

Description
A really good stretch for the gluteal muscles post workout

Method
Start on your hands and knees. Cross the symptomatic leg  underneath you, then lower your hips down to the ground.
Rest your body forwards on your arms. You should feel a stretch across the buttock.

Variations
Upper body position upright or down

Benefits
Deep gluteal stretch

Lumbar Spine Rotation with Piriformis Stretch

Description
A good combined stretch of the lower back and gluteal muscles

Method
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the ankle of one leg just above the knee of your other leg. Maintaining this position, rotate your legs over to the side of your elevated leg. You should feel a stretch in your buttocks and lower back. Hold this position.

Benefits
Helps maintain and improve spinal flexibility

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