Considering a Fitness Trainer or Fitness Program? INTEGRATE Performance Fitness is located in Palo Alto, CA and is available for semi-private (2-3 people) and large group sessions.
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Al Painter is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified Performance Enhancement Specialist as well as an NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist. He also holds a degree in Communications from Santa Clara University. His area of specialty is endurance athlete specific strength training.
Al has also been named “Best Bay Area Personal Trainer” by CitySports Magazine as well as being the recipient of a “People’s Choice Award” from Palo Alto Daily News.
Posted On: February 23, 2014
Today was a postcard-esque picture perfect Silicon Valley California Saturday afternoon that made me think about my bad weather indoor strength workout. Blue skies, upper 60′s and just about perfect trail conditions for an amazing mountain bike ride. If you’re reading this on the east coast, I gladly accept any barometric based abuse you leave in the comments!
While today was pitch perfect, a few of you are probably still enjoying a true winter. This includes those of you who run and live in an area that won’t thaw out for the next three months.
You’ve got the option to brave the elements, don your Maggie Simpson suit and trudge around the elements. It might look a little silly, but you could do it. On that note, I will tell you ride a road bike and the only thing between me and some serious road rash is a thin layer of spandex so I will not begrudge the athletic fashion choices of others in their personal pursuit of polar bear awesome!
What if I told you there was a way to get better at running without actually having to run outside in Hoth like conditions. 95+% of you BETTER get that reference btw. Between the “Family Guy” spoofs and the movie itself, there’s no excuse!
At any rate, when its cold outside, you can still hit your running muscles inside (not too mention aerobic energy systems). Not only will you build core strength and hip stability, you will improve the way you run once you’re able to get back outside. You can also add a metabolic training component to get in your interval/threshold work while connecting your core to your hips and shoulders.
Strength Training for Runners
Search for strength workouts for runners online, and you’ll see exercises that are primarily done on the floor face down (bird dogs get a hall pass here because they hit the diagonal loading patterns of crawling), on the back face up or things done on your side like a side plank.
In a rehab/corrective setting these work, and work well to restore movement or lost function. While these are great general exercises that people should do more of every week (in their warm up if anything else), I wonder how well they improve gait and running performance as opposed to doing things standing. Specificity of training, not too mention efficiency of movement, is what I’m thinking here.
Keep in mind running takes place on one leg in an vertical position, with dynamic diagonal loading patterns as the core stabilizes the shoulders and hips moving together. Because of that, when it comes to strength or core work, I feel that’s how runners should train.
Especially since most them sit behind a desk all day in a constant state of flexion, running is a repetitive stress activity that takes place primarily in one plane of motion (forward, unless you play ultimate frisbee, basketball, etc) and we know what that does to the front half of the body (“The Best Post Ride Exercises: Do These, Obtain Awesome”).
When people do single leg or split stance training, we know that on top of the benefits for hip stability and glute strength (two huge components to injury prevention and performance improvement), you typically get improved mobility of the hip flexors as well. Since tight hip flexors reduce glute function, and potentially lead to over pronation and low back issues, this is a pretty good thing.
This is especially important for runners because patello-fermoral pain has a direct link to single leg stability and strength. Over use injuries, tight IT bands, achilles tendonitis, bouts of sciatica and plantar fasciitis are very much connected with this as well (1).
Power = Performance
Whether you’re a competitive or casual runner, your performance is all about progressively doing more work in less time. This means runners need power, and lots of it. Whether you’re running around the block or an ultra endurance event, you’ll need it because power is the amount of work you do divided by the amount of time it takes you to do that work (2).
Six Exercises With One Goal: Get As Strong As Possible
When I was putting this together, I wanted this to be about as complete a workout for runners as possible while maximizing its efficiency. I’m a huge proponent of doing more with less (kind of like building more power!) when you train.
My schedule is nuts, so I get what its like to be “booked up” each week (“Perfecting Time Crunched Workouts”). To this point, I also wanted to include exercises that directly affect the muscles that help someone become more structurally sound for better running.
This workout is incredibly simple to do in terms of complexity of movement and is even easier to set up. All you need is a cable pulley system and a pair of weights at the gym or exercise bands and 3-5 gallon water bottles at home, that’s it.
This allows you to put together what I think is the ultimate runner’s core strength workout:
Something done in an upright position that mirrors running that builds hip stability, lateral/rotational stability, improves diagonal loading patterns, core strength and gives you a much better connection from the ground up! The best part about this is you will do a ton of core AND glute work with each exercise making this as effective as it is efficient.
When its cold outside, here are my top six exercises for runners to do inside:
1. Loaded Carries (Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Water Bottles)
If there were only two exercises on the planet you were allowed to do, this would have to be one of them (every permutation of a deadlifts being the other one). It is just about the perfect way to build not only total body strength, but lateral stability as well. And if you run with any frequency you better have both if you want to remain healthy.
One of the great things about this exercise is while your legs are definitely involved, they don’t get crushed leaving them with plenty for your next run. The process is simple, pick up two weights, do a slight shrug (1/4 to 1/2 of an inch at MOST), brace your core and cover some floor! Since this is essentially a walking plank, you are accomplishing a ton without having to do all that much other than walk.
At the gym, its dumbbells, kettlebells or weight plates. At home without iron of any kind its 3-5 gallon water bottles filled up appropriately. Pick a distance and GO!
Want to hammer your obliques into oblivion? Only use one weight at a time and the lower corner of the abs opposite the weight will get beyond involved! Not ready for one arm? Simply hold two weights with one 10-15lbs heavier than the other one. Offset loading still hammers your lateral stability!
Don’t have a ton of room to walk? March in place or simply stand on one leg with the other one at hip height.
2. Split Stance Hip Hinged Deadlifts (Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Water Bottles, Cable Pulley, Exercise Bands)
This is the step just before the single leg version, but I feel it is a better place to start for most people. The split stance version allows more control of the hips, and since you’ve got one foot on the floor, you’ll have a much easier time balancing. I’ve found it much easier to teach people the single leg version after they lay down their foundation with this exercise.
To set it up, here’s what you’ll need to do once you pick your mode of resistance. If you’re using cables or bands, they start out in front of you.
3. Split Stance Squat (Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Water Bottles)
I love this exercise, not loaded carry love, but close. This is another great way to hit your diagonal loading patterns of the core and lower body. you can do this Goblet style (absolutely HAMMERS the lower abdominal wall), holding two weights, an offset load (heavier in one hand than the other) or a single arm.
To set this up, put your feet in the same position as the split stance deadlift, and then:
4. Single Arm Split Stance Pull (Cable Pulley, Exercise Bands)
Load the glutes, involve the obliques, strengthen the back half of your body and work on diagonal loading patterns all for the price of one exercise. This is a great way to connect the front and back half of the body in the patterns that take place while running. This is a really good anti sitting exercise as well as something that works really well in a warm up pre run.
To set this up:
5. Single Arm or Alternate Arm Split Stance Press (Cable Pulleys, Exercise Bands)
If there was only one exercise a runner was going to do, this would have to be it, and here’s why:
The rotational patterns of running are incredibly dependent on the diagonal connections of the left hip and right shoulder and vice versa. Every time we move, there’s a momentum vector (directional forces we have to overcome to be able to move) created by our muscles (3).
Just about everything we do with the exception of blinking is affected by this. This is a fancy way of saying, if you do it when you’re awake, you better do it when you exercise. With running, this means you best be doing your single arm split stance presses if you want to improve the way your muscles fire when you run!
Want to take it to a whole new level of fun? Work up to a single arm (right) single leg (left) exercise. This will HAMMER your core and hips, and you don’t need much resistance to do it.
Do this exercise and you WILL hit your glutes, obliques as well the stabilizers of the shoulders, hips, ankles and knees. All while strengthening the connections of your diagonal firing patterns between the hips and shoulders. See, AWESOME exercise for runner!
To set it up:
6. Anti Rotation Holds (Cable Pulleys, Exercise Bands)
Think of this as the culmination of the above mentioned exercises into one big ball of awesome. It is the ultimate side plank for runners because you’ll hit the same muscles as the floor version in a standing position allowing you to involve the hips a lot more and score a huge vector training victory.
It can be done with a parallel stance, split stance, kneeling on two knees (HOLY CRUSHED GLUTES BATMAN!) or in a 90/90 kneeling position. You will hit every muscle involved with running, and very much know you worked your obliques and glutes the next day!
That’s it, if you’re stuck inside because of bad weather outside and want to build stronger diagonal connections in the hips and shoulders, this workout will definitely do the trick. If you’ve got any questions, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can get them sorted out.
Remember, ALWAYS get an eval from a trusted physician, Physical Therapist or trainer before you begin any new exercises! You want to make sure you are moving correctly before introducing new stability or strength demands on your body. You’ll last longer and run stronger if you do!
1)“The Single Leg Solution: The Ultimate Guide to Proper Technique, Coaching and Programming of Single-Leg Lifts,” Mike Robertson MS, CSCS, USAW
2) “To The Max: Functional Training for Endurance Athletes,” Gary Lavin BS, CSCS, USAT II, Juan Carlos Santana MeD, CSCS
3)”The Essence of Band and Pulley Training Companion Guide,” Juan Carlos Santana MeD, CSCS
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Posted On: February 20, 2014
See what I did there? HIT workouts are by virtue fast ways to move, but I said not so fast. So, we’ve got fast workouts, but whoa there pardner, slow down there!
Ok, enough of the nonsense and on with the usual power prose I’ve raised you on. HIT workouts, all the rage for people who train at home. And why not? You can lose tons of weight and look better. LOOK better.
I’ve trained, eval’d or watched 100′s of people move in the last 13 years. The one thing most of them had in common? A really hard time “owning” their five check points:
Meaning their posture was not optimal when they moved compromising form. Basically, move incorrectly, build strength/power on dysfunction, get better at being broken. Remember, the whole role of training is to MOVE better. Everything else is a beneficial side effect.
How do you address this? You learn how to squat, hinge, push, pull and carry a load the RIGHT way. If you live in the Silicon Valley, you come and see me.
How do you NOT address this? Introduce high intensity movement into someone’s life who doesn’t move correctly at real life speeds.
Can’t get in and out of a chair correctly? Kees dive into the midline of the body, flattening your feet. NO SQUAT JUMPS FOR YOU!
Have trouble holding a plank for :30 seconds? Sorry, you don’t qualify for pushups on the floor. Burpees either for that matter.
On paper, burpees look good for HIT exercise. But you will very often see shoulders drive up into the ears when someone lands in the pushup position. You will also see the hips dive toward the ground making life “fun” for the lumbar spine.
Again, the premise I get: you don’t have time, these workouts are designed around that and they help you lose weight. On the surface, it makes sense. BUT, when you see people move, you know how the body breaks down and what needs to be done to both prevent and fix it, you play it smart and BUILD UP to intensity training. You don’t start there.
You also don’t cast a one size fits all net over your subjects. Keep in mind the people most people sit behind a desk all day, and we know what that does to us.
The problem is, marketing and science rarely get on the same page. Let alone the same book, in the same aisle in the same store. I must be old school in that I believe you create proper movement patterns BEFORE you unleash the hounds in a workout.
If you’re going to do these types of workouts at home, there are some things you need to keep in mind as you move. So pull up your favorite flavor of kambucha, get comfortable and let me help you get the most out of your hard work.
Be incredibly aware of your knees
Without proper hip stability and core strength, things can get tricky real quick for the hinge joint between your hips and ankles. It isn’t uncommon in untrained people to see their knees collapse inward when they perform squatting motions let alone explosive squat jumps.
By adding intensity to this such as jumping, you don’t magically make this better. What you do do is increase the potential of an injury, and potentially an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) “experience.”
Injuries to the ACL frequently occur during the deceleration phase of landing or in preparation for a change of direction (1).
Keep in mind most ACL injuries come in non-contact situations such as changes of direction, cutting on a field of play while slowing down, landing a jump and trying to pivot with with the foot in a fixed position and the knee straight (2).
Common risk factors from the knees coming together in a squat motion include (2):
PACK. YOUR. CHIN.
If you don’t have the proper t-spine mobility, mid/lower trap strength, glute strength or abdominal wall strength, your neck can get away from you and cause you to over extend your cervical spine. Particularly in the plank while fatigued.
Throw in some burpees to this this equation and you can do a number on your low back because of the position of your neck while moving. Keep in mind when you do something to one segment of the spine, you do it to another one.
“Some of the major reasons to pack a neck during a heavy lift is to create balance between the powerful extension forces applied to the neck from the trapezius and levator with an increased activation of the deep neck flexors and the powerful sternocleidomastoid,” Dean Somerset (3).
There are several benefits to knowing how to pack the chin and stabilize your neck. The shoulders don’t have to get involved to keep the neck from over extending. This goes a long way to preventing potential dysfunction to the thoracic spine, lumbar spine and shoulder girdle by pulling them out of neutral (3).
If your body can’t provide stability in one area, it will go involve other areas of the body that shouldn’t be involved. For the neck, a lack of strength/stability can result in the L3-S1 area of the spine getting hammered (3).
“Spinal stabilization not only allows for a healthy buttress of the core, but that in turn allows for more hip mobility and in turn a more free expression of powerful hip extension,” says renowned strength coach and physical therapist Charlie Weingroff, DPT (4).
Like Somerset, Weingroff believes that as the position of the neck goes, so goes the lumbar spine, and I agree. Pack the neck, stabilize the lumbar spine.
“When you consider the spine as one entity, one chain of links with regions that are easier to move than others, we should consider that whatever happens in one of those areas will be compensated or met with a similar position elsewhere. Basically what I’m saying is whatever happens in the neck is going to happen in the lumbar spine,” says Weingroff (4).
ALWAYS Focus on Form
Any time you train, the goal should always be to move better. Looking better as your motivation to move will typically blow a program apart if you train the wrong way. If you reach 5% body fat, but it hurts to get out of bed the next day, then all you’ve accomplished is a big fitness fail.
Walk better, squat correctly, hip hing perfectly and dial in your push and pull. Do this, and you are much better equipped to blow your heart rate through the roof because you can actually move the right way under load or intensity.
Don’t do this and it can eventually lead to getting familiar with words like co-pay, PPO, in network, strain and pull, and “the doctor will see you now, you may put down your two-year-old magazine.”
This HAS to be mentioned. I’ve seen it a zillion times. People have sore feet or ankles and they run. Their low backs hurt, and instead of resting they ride a bike uphill. Their shoulders kill them to put their arms over head, and yet they spend a ton of time in a pool swimming.
Long story short. If it hurts to get out of a chair, you may want to think twice about starting a high intensity training program. Pain is your body’s way of saying “HEY! STOP!” If you don’t, you WILL lose. Your body always wins. Play by the rules and your chances of not only success, but survival go up.
If something is painful when you move, instead of gutting it out, get it checked/evaluated. You are always better off having too much information instead of not enough.
ALWAYS Build Skill Before Fitness
If you move with dysfunction and you add strength or power to that movement, all you do is “get better at sucking” as I’ve heard multiple strength coaches say. If something moves incorrectly, and you give it more force to move poorly, the odds do not stack up in your favor long term.
Thinking you’ll drink from the holy grail if you grind yourself into oblivion is never the right reason to train. As Dan John says “training to failure is training to fail.”
I will never discourage people from exercising. Well, there are a few ways to train that I think are completely ridiculous, but the amount of money they bring in renders my opinion moot. So you don’t get it, this time.
At any rate, if you’re going to train, don’t get sucked in by imagery, marketing hype or promises of muscular nirvana.
Lifelong fitness can’t be achieved in 90 days. It is a commitment to a process that entails constantly striving to improve the way you move. Improving the way you look is icing on the cake.
Am I saying using your DVD player as your trainer is the devil? No.
It wouldn’t be my first choice, but if that’s what works for your schedule, then do it. What I am saying is that if you want to go 0-60 mph in .3 seconds while you train, make sure that you spent enough time going from 0-10, 0-20, 0-30, 0-40 and 0-50 before you hope in the driver’s seat and drill the gas pedal through the floorboard.
If you’d like help putting together home training programs, my Do It Yourself Program is perfect that!
2) “Prevention of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament injuries in soccer players. Part 1: Mechanisms of injury and underlying risk factors,” Alentorn-Geli E, Myer GD, Silvers HJ, Samitier G, Romero D, LÃ¡zaro-Haro C, Cugat R.
3) “Where are all the packed necks?” Dean Somerset
4) “Packing in the Neck,” Charlie Weingroff
Posted On: February 12, 2014