Useful Exercises to Help Distance Runners Deal with Muscles Imbalances
There’s no denying that distance running is one of the most readily available, and best, cardiovascular exercises you can perform. Plus, a great way to build up leg muscles such as the hamstrings, calves and, to a lesser degree, the quadriceps and gluteal regions. But if you don’t add in other fitness activities such as strength training, muscle imbalances may occur in the hip abductors, hip adductors, the tibialis anterior (shin muscle), abdominals and hip flexor areas. Factor in poor posture, biomechanical issues, leg length discrepancies and bad mechanics, and it’s more likely that muscle imbalances may occur in one or more of the areas mentioned above.
To help rectify muscles imbalances, perform specific exercises designed to strengthen the problematic areas at least three to four times a week. Here’s a list of exercises that will help you tackle your areas of concern.
Hip Abduction and Adduction Exercises
The easiest, and best, way to strengthen both areas is the abductor and adductor machine at a gym. Make sure the machine’s pads are adjusted on the outside to work the abductors, and inside to work adductors. Frequency: Three to four sets, 12-15 reps at modernly challenging weight will do the trick.
If you don’t have access to a gym, use resistance bands.
Standing Hip Abduction with Bands (video)
The primary hip abductors are the gluteus minimus and medius and the tensor fasciae latae. The sartorius and the piriformis are secondary hip abductors.
Starting Position: Attach one end of a band to a stationary object and then wrap the other end around one ankle, stand sideways with resistance band attached to the outer leg, feet hip-width apart, with toes pointed forward. Stand with back straight, abs engaged, legs straight and arms at your sides. Shift your weight onto left leg, keeping knee a little relaxed.
Action: Push right leg out against the resistance band. Slowly return leg towards the midline of the body to complete one rep. Stay balanced and finish set on this side before switching sides. Frequency: Three to four sets, 12-15 reps.
Resistance Band Hip Adduction Exercise (video)
The adductors are: adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, pectineus and gracilis.
Starting Position: Attach one end of a band to a stationary object and then wrap the other end around the ankle closet to it.
Action — Start with the leg abducted (away from the other leg) and pull it in, across your body, keeping the knee straight. Try to keep the hips level throughout the exercise. Hold onto something for balance, if you need to. Slowly return to the starting position. Switch sides to work the opposite leg. Frequency: Three to four sets, 12-15 reps.
The Tibialis Anterior Raise
While standing or sitting, simply raise the toes of the ground (dorsiflexion) while keeping the heel on the ground. You will feel the muscle contract along the shin area. You can also perform the same action with a weight resting on your knee in order to increase resistance. Frequency: Five sets of 15-20 reps.
Lie supine (on your back) while clasping your hands behind your head, without pulling on it. Slowly curl your torso toward your knees, bringing your shoulders four to six inches off the ground (don’t sit up). Hold for a second, while pressing your lower back into the mat. Return to the starting position. Perform slow, smooth and evenly; it’s not a race. Frequency: Do 200 crunches every other day. Break them up into four sets of 50.
Hip Flexor Exercise (video)
Using a cable machine, fasten the strap attachment over the tarsals bones (midfoot) of your foot. Lay on your back, and slowly bend your leg toward your body, as if you were running. Slowly lower your leg to the starting position. Frequency: 3-4 set, 12-15 reps at moderately challenging weight.
Resistant Band Hip Flexor Exercise (video)
Using a resistance band, attach it to a stationary pole or some other fixed object behind you, with the strap placed around your calf. With one foot behind you, raise your knee up to the hip area while keeping it flexed at a 90 degree angle. Pause for a second, then kick your lower leg out at hip height. Gradually return to the starting position. Frequency: 3-4 sets of 20-25 reps, with band tension adjusted to your liken and capability.
Note: Seeing a chiropractor and/or massage therapist may help identify and deal with muscle imbalances throughout your body better.
Also, get outfitted with proper running shoes at running/triathlete specialty store so imbalances don’t return once you have taken the necessary steps to correct them. Some store might have the technology to help analyze your stride.
Written by Jerry Del Priore for bodono.
Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College in 1991. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams.
Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, which encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what!
Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Jerry is also a Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews.
In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments.