We all want a strong core right? We can all agree that having a strong core is necessary for running efficiently. So does this mean that simply strengthening our abs will accomplish a finely tuned core? Or is it possible that other factors are involved in affecting your core’s function while running?
This brings us to Jacob. He is a superstar high school runner looking to make his form better and eliminate shin pain. In watching him run, his calves and shins do not jump out as the area needing the most improvement. Let’s see what he looks like initially.
What stands out most is the forward lean and side to side swagger of his upper body. What this indicates is that he is not using his hips and hamstrings properly during the loading phase of running. This is causing his core to work differently to absorb and rebound that load. Essentially his core is not able to function properly, and no amount of crunches or planks can overcome this pattern. In order to correct this pattern, he needs to have improved hamstring flexibility and improved loading through his gluts. Only then, will his core muscles be able to fire properly and work as it should to make him a better runner.
So, here’s what we did about it. First, a simple dynamic hamstring stretch. This could easily be done on a stair or bench if one’s available. A key component to this also (which Jacob is demonstrating so nicely!) is to keep the low back straight instead of rounding, this helps ensure that the movement comes from the hamstrings instead of the low back.
Next, a hip strengthening exercise to develop stability in a lengthened range. This element is critical for teaching the gluts to be strong while they’re being loaded. This exercise looks a little goofy, but it’s intended to be a modified version of a deadlift with a twist.
Next we did a few simple drills for his running form. First, he ran holding bricks out in front of him. What this does is increase the forward load, which forces the hamstrings and gluts to kick in more quickly and brings his upper body into a more upright position.
Next, he ran with the same bricks with his hands overhead. This forces his gluts to load more quickly while running in order to keep his core in a neutral position, essentially decreasing the side to side movement of his upper body.
So after all this, here’s the new and improved Jacob!
Unfortunately the video cut out a little too quickly, but there are improvements with his upper body. The side to side swagger is decreased which indicates that he is using his hips more effectively. He is also leaning forward less which indicates that his hamstrings are doing a better job of controlling the loading phase.
Again, at first glance it would be easy to conclude that he needs to do more core work, but if he’s not using his hips appropriately, his core will always be off balance. With constant attention to gaining flexibility in his hips and teaching them how to work correctly, this will make life happier for his core and translate into more efficiency with running. Great job Jacob!