Thursday, November 02, 2006

Leg Strength and Running Efficiency

Most people think leg strength is the most important factor to your running performance but it actually only a small part to your running efficiency. The leg muscles used while running on a road are the quadriceps which pull your legs forward, the hamstrings which pull your legs back and the calfs which give you lift and allow you to push off.

Most runners have strong quads and calfs just from running and their hamstrings which are usually imbalanced to their quads are stronger than the general population too. So excessively working these primary running muscles will not bring extensive benefits to your speed or comfort while running.

It's important to think about what your legs are anchored to. It's not the road, it's your core. A strong core will allow you to push yourself forwards much more efficiently. It will decrease the amount of effort it takes to propel yourself as less energy is wasted as your core does not move in the opposing direction to your movement.

So what should runners concentrate on in the gym? Work your rectus abdominus (abs) and erector spinae (lower back) evenly. You want to be balanced front to back. Also work your obliques which will help to stop the twisting motion which slows a lot of runners by wasting energy. You can also try to balance the strength between your quads and hamstrings which will help you push forwards and reduce your chance of hamstring injury.

If you're at a level where your legs and core are strong you can further fine tune your efficiency by working on your shoulders, chest and upper back to allow your arms to help in the forward propulsion.

Not only will working your core make your running more efficient, it will improve your posture and prevent injury too.

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