Undoing Muscle Imbalances
In our society, particular muscles are commonly very weak due to all of the sitting we do, while other muscles are abnormally tight for the same reason. These muscle imbalances cause stride irregularities in many runners. Those who totally dismiss the notion that better running technique can be learned overlook this correctible source of stride irregularities.
For example, tight hip flexors (the hip flexors are the muscles that lift the thigh) are very common in our society. When the hip flexors are too tight, the hip cannot extend sufficiently during the push-off phase of the stride. Consequently, the hips and lower spine must rotate in the direction of the push-off leg so that the foot can stay on the ground long enough for a proper push-off. But this compensatory rotational movement is less effective-it uses more energy to generate less thrust-than the correct motion in which the hips and spine stay neutral and the hip extends fully.
RELATED: Flexibility Tests For Runners
Correcting such imbalances will give you a better foundation to run with better technique. It requires that you regularly perform well-selected functional strengthening exercises and joint mobility exercises. Here’s an example of a hip mobilization exercise that will open up your hip flexors so you can achieve better hip extension during the push-off phase of running:
From a standing position, take a long stride forward into a deep lunge position and lower the same-side elbow to the heel on the forward leg. From this position, drive off the forward foot, return to the upright position, and pull your trailing leg even with your forward leg. Repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg. Continue lunging forward in a walking manner. Keep your chest up and try not to let the lower back round as you lunge.
You Can Run Better
While there is no single method of running that everyone cane learn and practice effectively, every runner can improve his or her technique. Training correctly, learning to run “barefoot,” and correcting common muscle imbalances are the surest means to a more efficient, powerful and injury-resistant stride.
About The Author:
Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012). He is also a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. To learn more about Matt visit www.mattfitzgerald.org.