Do you have the muscle strength it takes to run in good form?
As natural and easy as the motion of running seems, running in good form actually takes a whole lot of muscle strength and coordination. Many runners tend to rely on quad muscles to power their stride, but the powerhouse muscles we should be tapping into are our core and glutes. A strong, activated core and glutes help to stabilize the pelvis and control movements in our arms and legs — all leading to an efficient stride and beautiful form.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t (or can’t) run like this for one of two reasons:
- We simply don’t have the core and glute strength we need…yet!
- The strength is there, but proper recruitment is lacking.
So which category do you fall in? Do these 5 functional strength evaluation tests you can do at home to see where your areas of improvement are.
Testing: Core Endurance
Get down on the floor on your elbows and forearms with your upper body supported off of the ground in a straight line from head to toe. Keep your feet comfortably shoulder width apart and hold this position for as long as possible. Be sure to time yourself using a stopwatch to see your assessment.
Excellent: > 6 mins
Very Good: 4 to 6 mins
Good: 2 to 4 mins
Average: 1 to 2 mins
Below Average: 30 to 60 seconds
Poor: 15 to 30 seconds
2. Side Plank
Testing: Core Endurance (important for anti-pelvic rotation)
Similar to the regular plank pose, support your upper body off of the floor but using only one elbow and forearm. Keep your feet stacked and spine in a straight line from head to toe. Use a stopwatch to time how long you can hold this position.
Excellent: > 90 seconds
Good: 75 to 90 seconds
Average: 60 to 75 seconds
Poor: < 60 seconds
3. Stork-stand Balance Test
Test for: Single Leg Balance
photo credit: www.acefitness.org
For this test, stand on one leg and place the sole of your other foot against your standing leg. Place your foot slightly above, on, or under your knees — wherever you can keep your balance best. Then, raise your standing foot heel off of the ground and hold this position for as long as you can. Use a stopwatch to time how long you can maintain this position. Repeat on other foot as well.
Excellent: > 50 seconds
Excellent: > 30 seconds
4. Single Leg Squat
Test for: Strength + Flexibility
A single leg squat is an exercise where you squat down with one leg on the ground and the other extended straight out. The goal here is to be able to have the strength and balance to lower your body down to the ground without you falling over to the side or your knees rotating in (it’s harder than it looks!).
The assessment of this exercise is about form rather than time. Look out for your knees drifting inward at the bottom of the squat. If you notice this happening, it’s an indicator of weak glutes and tight adductors, calves and hip flexors.
5. Overhead Squat
Test for: Full-body test
An overhead squat is like a regular squat but with both of your arms raised above your head. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forward. Lift both arms above your head, and slowly squat down with your knees stacked above your ankles.
Similar to the single leg squat, this assessment is also an assessment on proper form rather than time spend in position. This particular exercise is a multi-point full-body strength assessment that is conducted from different vantage points (front, back, and side of the body), so it is best to have a friend watch you or set up a camera recording that you can review later, or simply do it in front of a mirror. The full list of checkpoints is quite long and extensive, but some key things to look out for at the bottom of the squat are:
- Foot pointing out (front view)
- Knees rotating out or in (front view)
- Heel rises off of the ground (back view)
- Feet Flatten (back view)
- Excessive back arching or rounding (side view)
Many of these are indicators of weak glutes and hamstrings, tight calves, hip flexors, and adductors that are all inhibiting you from achieving good running form. For the full assessment, check out the National Academy of Sports Medicine Squat Solutions table.
Didn’t do so hot in these evaluations? Check out our blog post on 5 exercises for a stable pelvis to start working on your glutes and core. Otherwise, it might be time to learn proper cueing during your run for proper recruitment of your muscles. Stay tuned for another blog post on neuromuscular training and cueing!
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