A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and as I like to say, a runner is only as strong as its weakest muscle. In the chain of muscles used when running, relatively weak muscles can increase your risk of injury, reduce your ability to absorb and produce force, and possibly negatively affect running efficiency. Unfortunately, running alone will not correct this imbalance and, in fact, may make this relative weakness worse.
Use this five-exercise workout to target those weaknesses to ensure you stay healthy during the base-building phase. Do this exercise three to four times a week from the comfort of your home. All you need is a soft ball and a step about 8 to 12 inches high. Do one set of each exercise back-to-back with minimal rest, then complete three to four full rounds.
Images: JB Moloney
Exercise 1) Pelvic list
Why: To improve hip muscle strength and pelvic stability while standing on one leg
How do: Stand on one leg on a dumbbell or an elevated surface (about 2 to 6 inches). Let your hips turn toward the side as your non-standing leg reaches the floor. Next, use your quadriceps to bring your hips back to center and level. Your non-standing leg will appear to come off the ground. Focus on using the hip muscles of your standing leg to re-center your pelvis.
Do: 20 reps per side
Exercise 2) Calf raise ball press
Why: To improve lower leg and foot strength
How do: Stand on a step with your feet parallel while squeezing a soft ball between your heels. Hold on to a barbell and do calf raises. Squeeze the ball between your heels as you come as high as you can onto the balls of your feet. Focus on pressing on your big toe. Lower your heels back down, just below the step.
Do: 15 reps
Exercise 3) One leg hip raise
Why: To improve the strength of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings
How do: Lie on your back in front of the step. Place one foot on the edge of the step while keeping your other leg in the air. Push to the edge of the step to raise your hips. Fully extend your hips and squeeze your butt firmly at the top.
Do: Hold the highest rep for 10 seconds, then perform 10 dynamic reps. Next, hold the highest rep for 8 seconds, and then perform 8 dynamic reps. Continue this count/repetition pattern, counting down to 2. Then perform a set on the other leg.
Exercise 4) Tap shoulder high plank
Why: To improve the strength and stability of your anterior core
How do: Go into a high plank with your hands under your shoulders and your toes wider than your shoulders. Extend your upper back and bend at the hips. Prepare your abs and buttocks. Next, raise 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 upper reach
Why: To strengthen your legs while stretching your quadriceps
How do: Stand in a lunge with your front foot flat. Make sure you are on the balls of your toes with your back leg. Bend your knees to lower your back knee toward the floor while bringing your knees up and slightly behind you. Push your hips forward to lengthen your thigh and back hip.
Do: 15 reps per side
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CK, CSCS is a regular contributor to TMC and has been a certified kinesiology, strength, and conditioning expert for over 15 years. He co-owns a gym in St. John’s called JKC (www.JKConditioning.com).
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Canada Triathlon Magazine