Strength Training For Running 101 - Trunk Stability
In-person and online distance coaching clients included, many of my lovelies like to use running as a means for improving fitness. It’s an economic and effective choice.. Running is what we call in the industry a “low-barrier-of-entry sport,” - i.e. something that requires small financial investment and little or no facility/equipment requirements. That sounds great, right? Fitness should be available to all.
HOWEVER, the ease with which we have access to running sometimes tricks us into believing there’s no major pre-requisites in terms of skill either. And unfortunately, that just ain’t true.
In order to withstand the repeated stress of running and reap all the potential benefits—and yes, there are many reasons to run—your body needs to be strong in all the right places. There are certain strengths REQUIRED before starting a running regimen.
Getting stronger in order to run better is an easy concept to grasp. “But, strong in what ways,” you may ask? Well, that my dear is a very good question. Cause you certainly don’t need to go wasting your time with bicep curls and tricep push-downs, as I see lots of cardio queens toiling over in the weight room.
You need to focus on developing certain qualities that will have better impact on your readiness for running like plyometric and deceleration training. You’ll also benefit from lower body mobility and strength training.
We can get into those concepts more at a later time(shout me out @ashleighkast if you have interest), but right now we’re gonna talk about the most important quality you should work on first - the one that is going to influence your success through all the others - and that is trunk stability.
I'm going to give you one bit of magic that will help you increase your trunk stability - which by the way is important for EVERYONE, not just runners - but first, let's talk about what it is.
Ok, what is trunk stability?
Trunk stability is what you may really be imagining when you think about “core training." You know that your trunk is your body—your torso without the appendages. So trunk stability is then defined as your ability to keep your torso stable throughout any given movement—moving with integrity and honoring the way the joints work there.
Why is this so important to me?
Well, for our purposes, we’re going to focus on the lower part of your spine. As you run, you need to be able to keep your lumbar spine and your pelvis stable…
To Improve Your Mobility
Proximal Stability Leads To Distal Mobility. What leads to what? Ok. let’s break this loaded statement down. Cause it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds. When we say “proximal” we mean towards the midline of your body i.e. your trunk. When we say “distal” we are referring to joints further away from your midline, like in this particular case - your hips.
So what we’re saying is:
If you can create a more stabile environment throughout your trunk, you can gain better mobility through your hips without doing a single isolated stretch.
And that increased mobility can potentially lead to a WAY more efficient stride. With a more efficient stride, you’ll be able to run faster with less effort. That sounds good, right?
To Breathe More Efficiently
Your diaphragm is primarily a respiratory muscle. Everyone knows that. However, the diaphragm also plays a significant role in your postural stability, including the lumbo-pelvic complex we’re focusing on. As you engage in more strenuous workouts, the priority of the diaphragm needs to shift to that cardio focus. But you’ll need to have enough strength in other supporting muscles like the pelvic floor and the transverse abdomens in order to continue breathing optimally as the threshold shifts.
So what we’re saying here is:
If you can challenge your trunk stability and in turn strengthen all those muscles involved in that task, you can be more efficient with your breathing pattern as you run.
With a better breathing pattern, you can run at higher speeds and you can run for extended time.
To Lessen Your Risk Of Injury
We mentioned this before, but you need to honor the way you were made to move and therefore respect the function of your joints. As we said, your lumbar spine and your pelvis need to be more stabile and your hips need to be more mobile. Dishonoring of that relationship will result in unnecessary stress on joints that can't handle it. And more than likely, you'll run into lower back stiffness or pain first.
So what we’re saying is:
If you can challenge your trunk stability and strengthen your joints PROPERLY, you can build the capacity in your trunk and lower body to withstand the stress of running.
With the right strength, you can ensure your benefit is higher than your cost, and get better every year without being sidelined.
How can I start working on my trunk stability?
You can start building better core strength for running right now by training in the half-kneeling position. This posture works great because it not only mirrors what happens when you run (putting one hip in flexion and one in extension), but it's also simply difficult to screw up. You'll know if you're not getting it right because you will lose your balance and fall over. That doesn't sound nice. But the results from challenging half-kneeling are VERY NICE.
Start with these three:
Half Kneeling Chop
Chop the cable down and across your body as you keep your hips unmoving.
Half Kneeling Lift
Lift the cable up and across your body as you keep hips unmoving.
Half Kneeling Belly Press
Press the cable straight in front of you while keeping hips unmoving.