The Performance Matrix

Core training for runners

16th February 2014

It is widely acknowledged within the running fraternity how the dual qualities of both strength & endurance can be of benefit to runners. More specifically, within the myriad of possibilities to improve these components throughout the body as a whole there is great interest in exercises geared towards challenging the runner’s core.  
Here we consider why this might be the case and where time can be lost or gained depending on the approach employed.

Runners, informed by twitter and a multitude of blog posts test out core training ideas in the often vane hope of remaining injury free. Anecdotally, and from figures revealing how running injuries remaining stubbornly high, it seems such endeavour proves insufficient to becoming and remaining the injury immune runner. Indeed, the core training for running picture is certainly more complex when perceived up close, more representative of a collage of interrelated factors. Variables such as an individual’s running capacity (VO2Max, lactate threshold etc…), movement patterns and ability to endure sustained loading whilst simultaneously control joints (economy) must be judiciously weighed. 
One technical component of a flowing, efficient running style that requires the core’s involvement is the concept of counter rotation. This describes the natural rotation of the pelvis in one direction and the counter rotation of the upper torso in the other. This allows effective transfer of forces from lower body to upper body – deemed as a requirement for efficient running performance. This rotation is subtle, occurring ‘naturally’ unless a conscious effort is made to prevent it. Of note, a very common coaching cue for runners is the following; hold yourself upright and pull back the shoulders while at the same time brace the ”core muscles”. This may prove not only difficult to achieve whilst managing the demands of breathing for one, but is also directly disadvantageous to the counter rotation movement seen as desirable.

Even though this counter rotation may be evident within a runner’s technique another quality must also be apparent; control. The runner in possession of a controlled counter rotation not only exhibits efficient force transfer strategies but can additionally meet the demands of the movement challenges of running with choice in their technique. Such properties of control are required throughout the anatomical/mechanical/neurophysiological unit that is the runner. Management of ‘runner’s knee’ – a highly prevalent long distance running ailment relies not just on addressing possible endurance/strength deficits at the hip.

Co-ordinating the pelvis-torso relationship, managing alignment of the foot at both push off and landing phases, plus efficient single leg standing control of hip abduction, adduction and even extension are all requisite to limit the incidence of this and many other injury outcomes. All these factors require exercise strategies away from the ultimate goal and activity of running. If this is to be the case runners must be confident their time is not wasted on less than optimal exercise protocols. Within the strength and conditioning literature a classic study removed a high volume of running from a running programme replacing this modality with highly specific, explosive strength training (Paavoleinen et al., 1999). Key markers of running performance improved following this intervention, an outcome that has subsequently lead to new approaches to enhancement of running performance. For the keen runner, any additional time spent away from running, performing supplementary conditioning work must be confident of an equally beneficial outcome. This also applies to exercise performed with injury prevention in mind.  

To ensure such specific outcomes may be achieved ‘The Running Matrix’, devised by The Performance Matrix team identifies ‘who’ needs ‘what’ with regards to improved movement control. The ten tests of the movement analysis tool highlight the specific movement faults most commonly seen in runners. Following its delivery each runner is made aware of their movement control deficits allowing specific movement control exercises to be employed. Everything for a reason. Time away from running can be efficiently spent correcting what is specifically required, appropriately investing in an injury prevention strategy that matches where real risk lies as opposed to a blanket approach that may or may not address the problems waiting to happen.

Our new TPM Running Solution allows you to combine 3 days of running specific training with a licecne to The Running Matrix and is ideal for any movement professionals wanting to enter The Performance Matrix platform. For more details click here.

One of the Running tests - Small Knee Bend Bounding



If running is important to you and you would like to get screened, find out where our nearest movement specialist to you is by clicking here.

Paavolainen L, Häkkinen K, Hämäläinen I, Nummela A & Rusko H. 1999. Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. Journal of Applied Physiology, 86 (5), pp. 1527--1533.

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