Wednesday 6 November 2013

strength training for runners

Sarah Robertson came to me a few years ago with dilemma and a challenge, having only been a 5k runner for a number of years, the initial consultation went along these lines:

S-“I haven’t trained in 8 months owing to a double ITB problem as in both legs have been written off by the physio”
Me- “So you need a rehab programme to get you on the mend before you start training for your 5k events”
S- “kinda, I want to run a marathon”
B- “okay no problem when are you looking at”
S- “That’s the dilemma”
S-“It’s the Jersey marathon and it is in six weeks”
B- “oh”

So based on that we discussed the challenge and despite trying to persuade her to wait a while, we started the programme.
Sarah posted 4hours 45 minutes for her first attempt which given the injury and time period for training was a great effort.

From there a relationship between Coach and athlete grew, with Sarah coming up with more little goals in between her main goals. Remembering her only goal was to do 1 marathon, in her first year we completed three marathons and a number of 5 and 10k events with a half marathon for good measure.

Year 2 was the laughable one “I will just concentrate on half marathons this year”, that lasted all of two minutes when I heard “Will you train me for an ultra”? (An ultra marathon being any distance beyond marathon distance.)

The good thing was Sarah trusted me with regard to her training and despite many of her peers and fellow runners telling her it was all wrong, “runners don’t train like that” we kept going.

Sarah was introduced to Olympic lifting, kettlebells, sledges, trx, tyres, weight vests, hypoxic training, TUF (technique under fatigue) and so much more. Her running style and programme completely changed introducing hill reps, sprints, working the curve in reverse doing speed power then endurance. Most of all she was asked for constant feedback which was something new to her!

Sarah is now part of our athlete performance programme and has kindly given a testimonial which can be read below—

Running a marathon was an ultimate goal. It scared the hell out of me but I wanted to try it just once. Sure, I could have downloaded a training programme from the internet but I knew I needed a bit more of a ‘push’ – and I had a few wee injury niggles to resolve. I needed some help with this challenge.

Having trained previously as part of a group instructed by Brian, I knew he had the mix of knowledge and motivational skills that would get me through. And he did. There was only one ‘problem’.

He made this and other challenges seem achievable. It seemed logical after a few marathons to look to other challenges and I wondered how far I could go, could I complete an ultra marathon? After my first 53 mile race, we found out – yes, I could. My goals change and evolve because I gain physical strength and mental confidence from training with Brian.

We have now completed two competitive years and I have had no injuries to hamper my training. Yes, training can be hard work sometimes but he also makes it fun too and the results are worth it. Brian makes me realise I can achieve more than I ever thought I could.

Her strength exercises consisted of the following basics, with a variety of others at different stages of the programme.

Clean and Press

The exercise involves strength and speed and works the deltoids, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and triceps.


Another strength and speed exercise targeting the lower back trapezius, quads, hamstrings and glutes


Picture to follow

The squats are a great strength exercise and target the quads, hamstrings, hips and lower back

Sissy lunges

This exercise - a variety of a standard lunge - is not vastly used but is great for strengthening the vastus medialis muscle which helps to align and track the kneecap properly. If you strengthen this muscle it can help prevent runners knee/knee pain.

Charlies Angels

A variety of the Gun drill exercise

Plyometric exercise aids running economy and all runners should incorporate single leg exercises into their programme, the additional benefit of this type of jumping lunge is the rotation of the torso which helps promote stability in the abdominal and lower back areas.

Kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing is both a strength and power exercise. The swing strengthens the back, shoulders, torso and posterior kinetic chain, It also promotes functionality of the body as in it works as one unit rather than isolating the muscle groups.

Kettlebell single leg deadlift

Targets the posterior chain and torso , inclusive of hamstring, glutes and erector spinae which help with posture , which are also involved in running, and jumping, they are responsible for generating hip and back extension power. Aside from the performance and posture promotion, keeping these muscles in good shape is also important for injury prevention.

Since the initial programme Sarah has competed in over 13 ultra marathons (ranging in distance from 33 miles to 95 miles), marathons, duathlons, x country events and is one of only five women in Scotland to have completed five ultra races in the 2013 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series.

What will next season bring?

Friday 5 July 2013

Strength and conditioning for triathlon part two

Strength and conditioning for triathlon part two

in the last issue we looked at two forms of squats, this issue we will look at two more types of leg exercise, namely the step up and bulgarian split squats. Both exercises re great single leg exercises for developing strentgh.

The Step Up
Ensure that the box used for this exercise is

> 12-18" minimum off the floor
> or at least high enough to create a right angle on the knee bend non
> slip surface on the top wide enough for the lifters foot to be placed
> fully on top

> Ensure that the bar is approximately armpit height, move towards the bar and place the bar in the low or high position across the back, hips and feet should be directly below the bar.

> a pronated grip approximately more than shoulder width should be adopted.
> elbows should be raised to form a shelf to be created across the back
> so the bar does not slip

> step up onto the box from a standing position with the lead leg, ensure the trail leg is in contact with the floor.

> do not push off the trail leg, ensure that your torso is square and erect throughout the exercise.

> pause at the top of the exercise and

> then shift your weight back to the trail leg before returning the lead leg back to the start position.

*ensure that a spotter is used throughout the exercise

Bulgarian split squats

> grasp the bar in a pronated grip and the bar is in the low or high position across the back, grip should be just outside shoulder width apart.

> stand in front of a bench or box and place the rear foot on the bench

> Ensure that your weight is placed evenly throughout the lead foot with
> the knee in line with your toes

>lower to a point ensuring the the thigh of the lead leg is parallel or
>almost parallel to the floor

> Ensure that the torso remains erect and square to avoid bending over

> the knee should not lock out at the top of the movement.

both of these exercises are great for single leg strength and should be practiced regularly throughout your strength and conditioning programme.

Friday 17 May 2013

Strength and conditioning for triathlon 1

Exercise selection

When it comes to strength and conditioning for triathlon it is simple to fall into the old body building programmes which is how most sports fell into developing their own programmes and protocols

The demands of the sport are vast and too time consuming to go into each particular bio mechanical demand, stress and requirement of each muscle group, however once you understand the basic requirements of the muscles, exercise prescription and selection should be easy for you.

Firstly we will start from the ground up and look at exercises to increase overall strength in each of the disciplines.
In this article we will look at two types of squat although all squats have unique coaching points to each of them, the basic fundamentals in general are the same

> each squat movement should be initiated with the hips sitting backwards (imagine sitting in a chair) your knees will bend automatically, your back should be kept tight with the abdominals in a braced position, the back must not be allowed to round off at any point, if your lower back rounds a few factors need to be looked at the first and main two are technique and the weight lifted.

> knees must be stable (the knee is a stabilising joint (so allow it to do its job) the knees should not be falling inwards they should follow the line of your toes.

> the descent must be controlled with a slight pause or hold on completion of the downward movement, this allows for a more powerful drive after the initial inertia has stopped. Never bounce out of the squat!

> Your weight must be evenly distributed throughout the exercise your feet should be about shoulder width apart

Exercise 1 Front Squat

The front squat is probably the second least used squat after the overhead owing to a greater degree of difficulty compared with the back squat, the front squat also allows for a bit of variety in your session.

As stated this squat is technical and the biggest obstacle for many people is holding the bar in the correct position.
The bar can be held in the crossed arm position (fig 1) or the clean position (fig 2)

Cross arm position

Flex the elbows and cross your forearms in front of your chest Position the bar evenly on top of the anterior deltoid without use of your hands Place your hands on top of the bar using the fingers (hand open palm down) to keep it in position.
Move the arms upwards so they are parallel to the floor.

Clean position

many struggle with this position owing to a combination of lat and wrist tightness.

Grab the bar with an even closed pronated grip ensuring the hands are just over shoulder width apart Rotate the bar so it rests on the anterior deltoids or clavicles, the hands should be just out with the shoulders with the back of the hands resting on the deltoid or clavicle.

We advocate position 2 as this will be of greater assistance later in the programmes when completing the Clean and Press

Exercise 2

Back Squat
The most commonly used squat and one that probably promotes more incorrect technique than correct technique, mainly owing to the use of a Sissy pad.

Sissy pads promote in correct technique by allowing users to rest the bar using the pad on their shoulders thus promoting incorrect technique by not allowing the user to retract the shoulders making the chest bigger and allowing the back to naturally produce a bed of muscle for the bar to sit on comfortably. if the pad is used it can promote bad posture issues and a loose upper back.

The back squat has two placement positions which is personal to the user dependant on any factors however both are correct and both can be used. All users should regularly attempt to to use both positions in their programme.

Low back position

Grasp the bar and place it across the shoulders in the middle of the trapezius and across the posterior deltoids ensuring the bar is in an even position ensure the grip is closed and pronated and outside shoulder width apart

High Back position

Grasp the bar and place it above the posterior deltoids just below the neck closed pronated grip with hands outside shoulder width apart.

NB for both of the positions the elbows should be raised to promote a shelf with the upper back and shoulders this prevents the bar from slipping.

Strength and conditioning for swimmers 1

Prehabilitation exercise for the shoulders

Prehab is sometimes scoffed at by athletes of various sports, however it is becoming a major and integral part of many an athletes strength programme.

Physiotherapists and sports masseurs have been using pre habilitation to ensure that athletes stay at the top of their game and obviously to minimise the risk of injury and then having to enforce rehabilitation as part of the plan.

One of the best shoulder rehab exercises for swimmers or even upper body athletes is shapes, quite simply the shoulder's make the relevant alphabetical shape during a four movement functional movement pattern. This session can be used as a warm up, part of a conditioning set or on a stretching routine where functional movement patterns form part of the stretching. The following movement pattern may help to improve fine motor skills used during swimming.

Start position - lying face down on a bench or step, ensure your chest down to the top of your knee is supported by he bench, hands hanging down to the front of the bench shoulders relaxed (fig 1)

Execute the following movement pattern ensuring that

Start at the start position for each phase All movement is controlled Perfect technique is conducted throughout the routine for each movement pattern If fatigue sets in do fewer reps

Y (fig 2)

T (fig 3)

M (fig 4)

L (fig 5)

Coaching points

Don't cheat by throwing the arms out
Or moving the chest off the bench
Shrugging the shoulders up towards the ears

Exercise prescription
Start with body weight and progress to light dumb bells no more than 2kg
For best results ensure you start the movement patterns at a different point each time you conduct the sequence, this ensure stat the muscles fatigues at different points.
Vary the sequence as well as in
First time execute one of each movement until required reps sets complete
Next time do only the t's first then the y's and so on.
Also repeat the pattern in reverse.

Try the movement patterns whilst seated on the edge of a bench ensure the spine is upright and stable.

Watch out for more conditioning drills from T.O.D Coaching.