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Combining Dynamic Hip and Stabilization Drills for Runners

Pete Arroyo Elite FTs

Much like other sports, strength training for competitive purposes or fitness takes a tertiary or supportive role in the running and endurance community. In turn, strength work is approached with the care of the redheaded stepchild.

Well-meaning runners and coaches may discredit the significance of strength training, conjuring images of the juiced-up bodybuilder types or gorilla-like lifters and say, “This is not for us.” One can completely understand how this would turn off those who work with the explosive sprinter or distance runner as this image does not lend itself to a picture of speed or stamina.


Strength training in this context is the chassis that underpins the abilities of speed and endurance to help these withstand practice and compete at a higher level. To me, that does not sound like the “meathead approach” our well-meaning coaches may be thinking of.

If you train larger groups with the added constraints of time and minimal equipment, then this article is for you! Even though this writing is geared toward groups of runners in team or club settings, we can easily apply these methods to field athletes as well. Groups, in this case, qualify as more than one; all you need is a buddy and a band. Let’s get started.

Specialized Exercises for Runners

There is a twofold effect of specialized exercises for runners, according to world-renowned biomechanics expert Dr. Michael Yessis. These exercises are aimed at improving stride technique and/or improving strength, flexibility (dynamic), and power qualities as it happens in stride action. Exercises that improve technique will impact stride length. Strength, power, and flexibility exercises will also amplify stride length as well as frequency (1).

Specialized strength exercises can safely overload outputs while simultaneously enhancing technique and flexibility. This not only comes into play during off-season periods to prepare for the demands of running but also for injured runners attempting to bridge the gap to running again.

Co-Contractions, Resiliency and So-Called Corrective Exercises

What is a co-contraction and why is it necessary?

“In sporting movements… perturbations must be processed faster and are too large to be absorbed by feedback corrections. The stance phase in high-speed running is an example of an action that is too short to respond to ground reaction force in relation to the knee. This must be controlled by a mechanism with a delay brief enough to compensate for the perturbations during the ground strike, which is a co-contraction between the agonist and antagonist muscles to support he needed stiffness for spring action.” (2, pg 37)

Optimal postures in running occur from toe to head and are affected by the interaction of ground forces as well as the runner’s abilities to maintain them during a race or practice. Deviations in posture occur at ground contact due to:

  1. Poor general strength at the foot/ankle and up the chain at the hip, spine, and shoulder;
  2. Poor coordination of the intra-muscular system (i.e., poor co-contractions); and
  3. A lack of ability to withstand slight chaotic disruptions of external stimuli or subtle variances in technique (known as perturbations).

This may also happen during the flight phase (maybe more so up the chain) as compensation for balance. Here, the head and hips may misalign to keep the body from collapsing. Runners need to develop resilience to these occurrences.


This may read like a corrective exercise advertorial, but let me assure you, it is not. I’m sure there is a place for all the balance training on unstable surfaces especially in rehabilitation from injury, but healthy runners can build resilience in a smoother and efficient way.

If we adhere to the mantra of exercising correctly with a focused approach to technical execution, we do not need to waste time or valuable energy training the qualities of speed, strength, and resiliency in separate blocks or sessions. The exercises presented here will encompass aspects of each within a fraction of the time.

Frans Bosch explains how there is rarely a gradual shift between the low force, low speed, and small amplitude movements as in PT; to the higher force, higher speed, and larger amplitude movements in sports (2, pg. 36-37).

We may know this as “return to play” but are often in the dark of how to implement it. As coaches, we can prevent fires before they start, so to speak, by integrating these drills for off the track training. Implementation of our BFYB drills can help bridge the gap for our MASH-unit athletes but help keep our healthy ones resilient to injury.

The objectives of the following exercises cover a wide spectrum of qualities; in which the execution of one drill impacts the effect of the other. While one athlete is performing a specialized exercise to aid in dynamic correspondence of the running stride, the other athlete must react to a controlled chaotic environment.

This unique simultaneous execution makes for a dense training session where athletes can use specific strength drills to improve output and technique as well as develop mental and postural resiliency, including interactions with their teammates.

Knee Drives with Anti-Valgus Iso Lunge

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 sets up in a deep lunge while looping band around knee and feeding it to the opposite side.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band around anterior part of ankle and faces away from their teammate, walking forward just enough just beyond the base slack point of the band.
  3. From here, Athlete 2 will post the opposite free arm on the wall or fence, raising the banded foot until the knee is slightly behind the hip and the shin is parallel to the floor.
  4. The standing athlete will perform the specialized strength knee drive exercise by “punching” the banded knee forward and maintaining the horizontal shin. Athlete 1 attempts to maintain position despite the variances in pressure of the changing length of the band.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Training the psoas muscle action as it occurs in the recovery phase of the sprint.
  • Training the stabilizers of the deep hip, foot, and ankle, as they relate to a sprint posture — in this case, the deep isometric lunge.

Knee Drives with Single Leg Chaotic Iso Ham Curl

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 lies supine on ground while looping band around the back of one ankle, feeding the band away from the body.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band around anterior part of ankle and faces away from their teammate, walking forward just enough just beyond the base slack point of the band.
  3. From here, the lying athlete will bend at the knee and flex at the hip. Think “stance position” in a sprint with the up leg.
  4. The standing athlete will perform the specialized strength knee drive exercise by “punching” the banded knee forward and maintaining the horizontal shin. The lying athlete attempts to maintain knee flexion despite the variances in pressure of the changing length of the band.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Training the psoas muscle action as it occurs in the recovery phase of the sprint.
  • Training the hamstrings isometrically against perturbations.

Strength Paw Back with Pallof Hold, Version 1

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 sets up in a deep lunge while holding band in the hands and raising it to eye level.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band under ball of foot or back of ankle and faces toward the side from their teammate, walking backward just beyond the base slack point of the band.
  3. From here, Athlete 2 will post the opposite free arm on the wall or fence, raising the banded foot until the hamstring tightens. Knee may be slightly bent here.
  4. The standing athlete will perform the specialized strength paw back exercise by hammering down the banded foot striking the ground right under the hip. Athlete 1 attempts to maintain lunge position with arms center of the body despite the variances in pressure of the changing length of the band.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Training the hamstring muscle action as it occurs in the swing phase of the sprint.
  • Training the rotational stabilizers of the hip and trunk as it relates to a sprint posture-in this case the deep isometric lunge.

Strength Paw Back, Version 2

(play at 1:14)

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 sets up in a deep lunge while holding band in the crooks of thumb and index finger and raising straight arms above head.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band under ball of foot or back of ankle and faces toward the side from their teammate, walking backward just beyond the base slack point of the band.
  3. From here, Athlete 2 will post the opposite free arm on the wall or fence, raising the banded foot until the hamstring tightens. Knee may be slightly bent here.
  4. The standing athlete will perform the specialized strength paw back exercise by hammering down the banded foot striking the ground right under the hip. Athlete 1 attempts to maintain lunge position with arms held in overhead position, despite the variances in pressure of the changing length of the band.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Training the hamstring muscle action as it occurs in the swing phase of the sprint.
  • Training the stabilizers of the posterior shoulder and trunk, respective of the thoracic spine and erector spinae musculature.

Adductions with Hollow Holds

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 lies supine on floor with their legs completely straight and about six inches off the ground. From here take hold of the band with both hands extended over the chest. The band should feed laterally to Athlete 2.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band around lateral side of ankle, faces toward the feet or the head of their partner, and steps away until the slack is taken out.
  3. From here, Athlete 2 may post both arms on the wall or fence while posting the free leg on the ground with a tripod foot.
  4. The standing athlete will perform a straight-legged adduction exercise by raising the banded leg away from the body. The lying athlete will attempt to maintain the hollow hold (think of a face-up plank) by keeping the hands center of the body and resisting rotation.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Standing athlete: Training the muscles of the lateral sling to prevent hip collapse during ground strike as well as foot and ankle stabilization.
  • Lying athlete: Training the stabilizers of trunk and shoulder, respective rotation.

Adductions with Iso Row Side Plank

Equipment needed: 2 athletes, 1 band, 1 wall or fence

Execution:

  1. Athlete 1 assumes a side plank position, taking hold of the band with the free arm. From here, take hold of the band in a classic row position. The band should feed forward to Athlete 2.
  2. Athlete 2 loops band around lateral side of ankle, faces toward the feet or the head of their partner, and steps away until the slack is taken out.
  3. From here, Athlete 2 may post both arms on the wall or fence while posting the free leg on the ground with a tripod foot.
  4. The standing athlete will perform a straight-legged adduction exercise by raising the banded leg away from the body. The planking athlete will attempt to maintain the side plank and isometric row hold during variances in pressure, attempting not to break posture.

Objectives accomplished:

  • Standing athlete: Training the muscles of the lateral sling to prevent hip collapse during ground strike as well as foot and ankle stabilization.
  • Lying athlete: Training the stabilizers of trunk respective of lateral flexion and posterior shoulder, respective of retraction and depression.

A Word on Isometrics

Isometrics, in the context of this writing, will refer to longer duration holds (LDISOs). I was exposed to these in the early 2000s when Jay Schroeder came to our facility for a clinic of sorts. I say clinic because the only ones who attended were my boss and me. But that’s another story for another day.

Jay’s suggested up-to-five-minute-holds for basic strength work and what I could make sense of went over my young 22-year-old mind at the time.

Fast forward to 2019, and LDISOs seem to be making a comeback in what can be described as a perfect storm of coaches looking beyond the barbell and a lack of base-level athleticism. I might add this is probably for good reason, as doing an LDISO is simple in its execution but many in its effects, which may include neural function, aerobic capacity, connective tissue strength, and a hellacious mental challenge (3).

The drills described in this writing may not go to the five-minute mark, but if the specialized exercises are implemented with slower tempos, pauses, or higher reps, then the isometric portion will definitely creep into the minute ranges.

Why This Helps

The objectives of the following exercises cover a wide spectrum of qualities, in which the execution of one drill impacts the effect of the other.

While one athlete is performing a specialized exercise to aid in dynamic correspondence of the running stride, the other athlete must keep stable in a controlled chaotic environment.

This unique simultaneous execution makes for a dense training session where athletes can use specific strength drills to improve output and technique as well as develop mental and postural resiliency, including interaction with their teammates.

References

  1. https://doctoryessis.com/2013/01/01/specialized-strength-exercises-for-running/
  2. Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach. Bosch, Frans. Frans Bosch & 2010 Publishers. (Pgs 36-37).
  3. https://www.just-fly-sports.com/one-mans-dive-into-extreme-isometrics/

Source: https://www.elitefts.com/education/combining-dynamic-hip-and-stabilization-drills-for-runners/