INTRO - COLIN GRIFFIN
Hi - I hope everybody is keeping fit and healthy through this difficult period.
I work as a strength and conditioning coach at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin specialising in the rehabilitation of lower limb injuries and helping athletes improve their running performance. I have been running competitively since my international race walking career finished in 2014.
Home-based strength training
With no gym access for many runners, a home-based or outdoor strength and conditioning program can be done with minimal equipment and a little innovation.
You just need to make the exercises intense enough to provide a stimulus. You can do plyometric training (hopping and bounding) anywhere. If you are doing jumps or lifting with lighter weight, you just need to lift or jump with aggressive intent to improve explosive strength, or else work to fatigue to improve strength or muscle endurance.
Use this period as an opportunity
With racing fixtures on hold, now is a good opportunity to work on some areas that may be have been limiting your running performance.
As a personal exercise, I would suggest writing down one or two areas where strength training could improve your running that you have neglected up until now.
Over the next couple of weeks I will share some of the strength training programs that I will be doing at home and set some exercise challenges for members of the group to try!
Here's a short video presentation on designing a S&C program with some structure and key elements to include.
- What areas are you trying to improve?
- If you have a clear target(s), make sure your exercise intensity, sets and reps address that/them.
- Work the spectrum of high loads to fast movements.
- Anything fast or explosive, do at the beginning so that you get the right adaptations from it and have less risk of injury.
These are very general points. Different athletes have their own individual needs which requires a more tailored program.
My first exercise challenge here is a drop jump. It is a measure of reactive strength or how ‘bouncy’ you are - an important athletic quality to have.
Reactive strength index (RSI) is calculated by dividing your jump height by contact time on the ground. It’s how high you can rebound without taking too long on the ground. So for example if you can jump 30cm with a ground contact time of 0.25 sec your RSI would be 1.2. A good RSI score for a distance runner would be above 1.5.
A short presentation on why strength training programs should focus a more on the ankle and calf area, and less on the 'core'.
- Most running injuries occur from the knee down
- During slower and steady running speeds, we rely mainly on our calf muscles
- As we get older we lose calf strength and Achilles tendon elastic qualities. If your training only involves running, it may not have enough high intensity stimulus to slow down that age-related decline.
- And as you can probably tell, I was never good at art!
My latest exercise challenge is a single leg drop landing. It encourages fast recruitment of the hip and ankle muscles, and stabilisation of joints, as well as control of centre of mass. We have to do this in the initial part of our running stride after footstrike.
I often use this as an assessment tool for plyometric exercise progressions, as well as a warm-up exercise. Once an athlete can master a low-to-moderate step height, I would challenge the movement by increasing the drop height or adding resistance.
You can see how the 5kg medicine ball challenged my stability. Never let an exercise get too easy for too long otherwise we don't get the right adaptations!
My latest exercise challenge is a squat jump.
It is important to jump with explosive intent regardless of resistance and aim to be "tall and straight" in the air. I would begin with 1 rep at a time in each set where you reset in between reps. If you can land smoothly, you could progress to doing it repetitively for the set.
If you start to feel less explosive or not gaining as much height after a certain number of reps, I would cut the set there and take a few minutes of a rest between sets. Otherwise you are not training power or explosiveness properly.
This was my back garden S&C session this evening:
Overhead squat with mini and around knees - 2 x 8 reps (3 sec iso hold at bottom, pushing knees out)
Single leg RDL - 2 x 8 each side (20kg KB)
Ankling - 4 x 15 sec (5kg med ball)
Low step ankle rebounds - 4 x 20 (5kg med ball against chest)
Single leg ankle hops - 4 x 10 each side (slight incline up garden path!)
Squat jumps - 4 x 6 (5kg med ball)
Med ball press-ups - 4 x 12
Step-up - 4 x 8 each side (20kg KB)