Muscles are often confusing in their role in running performance. Sure, they play a role, but if muscles were really that important, wouldn’t bigger muscles equal faster times? And wouldn’t this mean bodybuilders would be winning road races? So, it’s not the amount (or size) of muscles that matters – it’s the type of muscles and the balance of muscles in the body that truly impact running performance.
Most of you have probably heard of fast vs. slow twitch muscles. Fast twitch muscles are fast and explosive and slow twitch muscles are for endurance and long distance. And this is true – to a point. Slow twitch muscles are extremely important for distance running but an endurance athlete with more fast twitch muscle fibers who trains properly will win every time over a comparable athlete with more slow twitch muscle fibers. It won’t even be close. The fast twitch runner with endurance is MUCH better than the slow twitch runner who tries to add in speed after the fact.
The reason this is important is that we lose our fast twitch speed as we get older. We do lots of LSD’s (Long Slow Distance) and that’s what we become – long slow distance runners. But wouldn’t you rather be a long fast distance runner? There are way too many people plodding along instead of RUNNING.
Run M5 trains the muscles in two ways. The first is to become morestable. When you do this, you are able to have a higher quality of training, to maximally adopt these fast twitch characteristics. When this is done, the sky is the limit. You’ll have newfound speed that you haven’t felt since you were a kid. And no amount of LSD training will ever give you the benefits that adding some raw fast muscle speed will.
Next, running fast often centers around core conditioning. The fastest runners, and the least injury-prone ones, have the strongest cores. Their bodies are able to absorb the impact and the wear and tear of running mileage without breaking down.
Think about a tree – is the tree any good if it has strong limbs but doesn’t have a strong trunk? This tree will surely wither and breakdown because it’s unstable. Imbalanced. The human body is no different. It will break down if the trunk is not strong.
Also, note that the “core” is not just about the six-pack that most people refer to when talking about core. It’s about the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, glutes and yes, the six pack (rectus abdominis). Each of these muscles plays a role in your running stride and having the optimal balance of muscle strength and balance between them will ensure you perform your best.
RUNNING MUSCLE DRILLS
- Keep a slight flex in the knee of the grounded leg throughout. Keep the knee “soft.”
- Think of “hinging” from the hips as you move forward – not just lowering your arm
- Don’t worry if you cannot touch the ground when doing this exercise. Touching your shin (or having your hands on hips) is fine too
- Best for people who have had foot, achilles or calf problems
Front and Side Planks
- Front planks: keep the body in a perfectly straight line and pull the belly button up to the sky
- Side planks: make sure the body stays in a “stacked” position with good alignment. Body is also straight from ankle to shoulder
- Best for: EVERYONE. Essential exercise for core strength and posture
Kneeling Cycle Drill
- Keep the pressure light on the hand as you cycle with the opposite leg
- Trace big circles (as big as possible) with your foot, in both directions
- Try to keep the leg up off the ground as you do this drill and do not let it lower (or “dip”) as you perform the cycling
- Draw the core in throughout
- Best for people looking to strengthen their glutes (butt). Yes, this is an exercise that can benefit everyone as well
Single Leg Piston Squats
- Make sure the knee stays in line with the toe throughout the entire exercise
- Raise the arms out in front on the squat to help shift the weight back, keep the posture upright and allow you to “get into the heel”
- Just allow the butt to lightly touch the bench, chair or bleachers behind you. Do not actually “sit” on it
- Keep your entire foot planted throughout and press back up strongly through the heel from the bottom
- Advanced exercise. Best for people with hamstring problems or an obvious discrepancy in strength from one side to another
- Knee(s) are bent at about 90 degrees and press up strongly from the heels
- Do NOT try more advanced progressions until you have mastered the easier ones. If you cannot keep an absolutely level pelvis throughout, you are not ready for the more advanced progressions
- Best for: EVERYONE. Strengthens the glutes (butt) and stretches the hip flexors, which is what almost all runners need
Plank with Knee to Shoulder
- Be sure to initiate this movement from the CORE, not from the hip flexor
- Shoulders stay level but there is a slightly rotation from the core and trunk as the knee comes forward
- Keep the belly button drawn in throughout
- Best for core and shoulder stability. Very good exercise for trail runners
- Keep neck in line with shoulders (do not look up or down)
- Three checkpoint are: squeezing the butt, squeezing the backs of the shoulder blades and squeezing the lower back
- Best for: EVERYONE. Essential for keeping your running posture in the later stages of races
- Feet are about 6 inches-to-1 foot away from the wall
- Pinkies are on the wall as you slides the hands and arms up and down
- Lower back, back of the head, elbows and pinkies must stay on the wall at all times. Only move your arms as far as your flexibility allows
- Best for people that have had shoulder problems and have tight chest and/or shoulders. This works the rotator cuff and opens up the chest by working the smaller muscles in the shoulder