Submitted by Ian Golden

Part II, Preparation and Maintenance of the Foundation

It is important to remember that all muscle groups must be evenly developed and strengthened for any technique, completely natural, or imposed, to work effectively and reduce the likelihood of injury through running. As one muscle contracts and shortens, the opposing muscle group must also elongate in controlled fashion to generate a planned and even movement. In order for muscles to work in concert in pure and powerful planes, their base of support must be firmly stabilized and balanced. Therefore it is crucial to insure a strong core prior to moving forward into plyometric training. In reality, most may take interest in learning and applying new techniques, but a vast majority within weeks will return to what comes natural. What will be left with be your enjoyment for running, and the routine that you’ve created to support it. This routine should include exercises and drills that are believed to make you not only more efficient on the run, but also a healthier individual.

Core Training

The following program has been taken from:
“Core Stabilization Training for Middle and Long-Distance Runners” by Michael Fredericson, Tammara Moore

Fundamental Lumbo-Pelvic Stability
Frequency: 3 sessions per week
Sets: start with 1 – 2 sets of 15, progress to 3 sets of 20

Supine Bent-Knee Raises
Purpose: To recruit deep abdominal muscles for lumbopelvic control.
Process: Lying on back, knees bent, feet flat. Alternately raise feet to opposing knee height while insuring that pelvis remains straight and lumbar curvature is kept in tact.
Progression: Add extending legs and lowering to the ground, and/or raising alternate arm overhead.

Quadruped with Alternate Arm/Leg Raises
Purpose: To engage the deep transverse spine stabilizer and extensor of the lumbar spine.
Process: On “all fours”, raise right arm and left leg into line while maintaining lumbar curvature and without rocking the pelvis or spine. Alternate arms/legs.

Purpose: Core stabilizing and gluteal strengthening exercise.
Process: Lying on back knees bent, feet flat, arms at sides, athlete will contract abdominals and squeeze gluts followed by a lifting of the hips off the ground until straight line is formed with hips, knees and shoulders. Maintain lumbar curvature and insure no rotation occurs in the pelvis. Hold for 10 seconds and then lower butt back to floor.
Progression: In the lifted position, lift one foot off of the ground by extending leg, and/or complete with arms across chest.

Prone Plank
Purpose: Static core stability exercise.
Process: Forearms resting on mat, elbows bent to 90 degrees, and toes resting on mat. Contract gluteals while maintaining spine curvature and head parallel to the floor, holding for 20 seconds and progressing to 1, 2, and 3 minutes with no compensatory lumbar flattening lordosis.
Progression: Alternate lifting each leg off the mat for 5 seconds.

Side Plank
Purpose: Static core stability exercise, trains quadratus lumborum.
Process: Lying on right side with right arm extended less than perpendicularly into mat, bent at elbow with forearm resting on mat. Raise pelvis from the floor and hold in straight “plank” position with minimal hip sag, holding for 20 seconds, working up to 1, 2, and 3 minute intervals.
Progression: Raising top foot to challenge core and gluts.

Advanced Lumbo-Pelvic Stability
Frequency: 2 sessions per week
Sets: 1 – 2 sets of 10 – 15 repetitions

Seated Marching on Physioball
Process: Sitting upright on physioball, spine curvature maintained, feet hip width apart. Raise alternating feet to opposing shins while contracting core and maintaining pelvic alignment
Progression: Addition of opposite arm lifts.

Spinal Flexion on Physioball
Process: Lying on back with physioball positioned underneath spine, knees bent slightly to position feet flat for stability, arms overhead with elbows bent and hands resting behind ears. Brace abdominals and raise head, neck and thoracic spine up in crunch fashion being mindful of moving thoracic spine, neck and head in straight fixed line. Visualize touching bottom of ribs to pelvis.
Progression: Performing while holding medicine ball with arms extended overhead.

Alternate Leg Bridge with Shoulders on Ball
Process: Start seated on physioball and walking feet slowly forward while slowly leaning back until shoulders, neck and head rest on ball, knees bent to 90 degrees with feet flat on ground. Abdominals braced, foot raised as knee is extended. Stability should be maintained with no pelvic tilting with position held for 10 seconds in alternated legs.
Progression: Adding arms lifted into the air or out to the sides.

Leg Curls on Physioball
Purpose: Recruit both actions of hamstrings – hip extension and knee flexion – while maintaining dynamic core stability.
Process: Lying on back on floor, place both shoeless feet on physioball, with arms at sides on floor for balance, raising the hips off the ground until the knees, hips, and shoulders create a straight line. Push the ball forward while maintaining the bridge and stability of the pelvis.
Progression: Progress to single-leg.

Abdominal Rollout
Process: Kneeling behind physioball with both elbows/forearms on ball, brace abdominals and lower back with spine curvature maintained, rolling the ball away until a straight line is formed from the shoulder to the hips, pulling back, then rolling out again with movement at shoulders and not in the back.
Progression: Straighten body fully until up on toes with straight line from the back of the head to the knees, again moving ball to/fro.

Squat Ball Thrust
Process: In push-up position with lower legs resting on ball, bracing abdominals with lower back and shoulder blades maintained, use abdominal contraction to move ball forward onto toes with knees bent.
Progression: Single leg/toes on the ball at a time.

Development of Balance and Motor Control

Forward/Backward Rocking
Process: Standing with body fully aligned on rocker board or dynadisc, shifting forward and backward for several minutes while maintaining alignment from head to toes and spinal curvature maintained, arms at rest at sides.
Progression: Progress to knees slightly flexed with alternating quick/slow back/forth movements.

Single-Leg Balance – 3 Planes
Process: Initiating a stepping forward and backward motion while on rocker board or dynadisc, maintaining alignment.
Progression: Progressing to run-style motion with opposing arm and leg swing phases while insuring no overflow or unstable accessory movements through the pelvis or spine.

Weight Transfers with Proper Alignment
Process: Leaning forward into fall with forward catching leg landing on rocker board or dynadisc.

Functional Movement Training

Single-Leg Balance with Hip Flexion
Purpose: Provides a functional movement pattern that is similar to running, increasing the stability of the lower abdominal muscles while using forward motion at the hip.
Process: While balancing on one leg, initiate running motion in both leg and opposing arm while insuring abdominal brace and spinal curvature with no pelvic rotation.
Progression: Attach a pulley or resistive band to the ankle to challenge hip flexors.

Multi-Directional Lunges
Process: Perform a step into a forward lunge, stepping forward with front knee bent to 90 degrees, patella in line with and no further forward than ankle, and spinal curvature maintained
Progression: Perform in multiple directions and/or onto a dynadisc.

Standing Pulley or Medicine Ball Rotation
Purpose: Dynamic challenge to the core with rotational movement pattern while abdominals braced and rib cage and pelvis locked as one to minimize torsional stress to spine.
Process: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, abdomen braced and spinal curvature maintained. Grasp medicine ball with arms extended and rotate the trunk by activating the abdominal obliques and spinal rotators while critically maintaining a stable pelvis.
Progression: Addition of diagonal motions.

Forward Lunge with Medicine Ball with Trunk Rotation
Purpose: Challenge core muscles with appropriate weight shift, balance, and control on one leg.
Process: Using a 30 meter range, standing upright, holding medicine ball with arms outstretched and perpendicular to body. Step forward with medicine ball in front of chest, completing lunge motion and bringing ball across chest to same side of body toward the same side as the forward leg, then returning the midline for the next/opposing step. The patella should not move in front of the ankle and should be aligned with second toe.

Standing Reverse Wood-Chop with Medicine Ball
Purpose: Combine dynamic upper and lower chain movement demanding pelvic stability.
Process: Stand with medicine ball in hands with arms extended, feet shoulder-width apart, move the ball from a lower position at the hip, across the body to the opposite shoulder. Reverse in starting at opposite hip and ending overhead at opposite shoulder.
Progression: Progress to performing while standing on one leg.

A potential recommended sequence for use of core training exercises would start with the use of Mobility Restoration and Fundamental Cores Stability Exercises in the Summer or Fall Base Training Phase. Advanced Core Stability and Functional Movement Training may assumed with the winter specific preparation phase, and Plyometrics during the Spring/Summer Competition Phase.

Strength Training

Strength training goals may include the recruitment of a greater amount of muscle fibers then when running distance events, to minimize ground contact time, to improve posture and as a by product, improve running mechanics. Strength training will include the use of body weight, and magnified body weight, during drills. Adding maximal/explosive strength training use other mediums should require handling 85 to 90% of one-repetition maximum weight for 3 to 5 sets of 5 repetitions.


Plyometrics focus on enhancing the speed component of muscle activation through providing a eccentric (lengthening) contraction to a muscle immediately prior to a forceful concentric (shortening) contraction.

Neither explosive strength training nor plyometrics play a role in developing VO2 max (maximal amount of oxygen transported in the blood) or lactate threshold (level of lactic acid tolerated or accumulated for use in the blood). Substituting a percentage of running workouts with both of these methods has been found to improve performance more than running alone despite having no effect on V02 and lactate threshold. It is believed that these exercises adapt the nervous system to call forth a greater number of muscle fibers for stronger, quicker and more powerful muscles without added bulk. The result is more economical and efficient running biomechanics and capacity. Explosive strength and plyometric training should coincide with the speed phase or period of training as opposed to during aerobic endurance phases.

WeekSingle Leg HopsBleacher HopsDouble Leg BoundAlternate Leg BoundSquat JumpsDepth JumpsBox Jumps
12x 102x 10
22x 102x 10
32x 102x 102x 102x 10
42x 102x 102x 102x 102x 10
52x 102x 102x 102x 102x 102x 102x 10
62x 102x 102x 102x 102x 102x 102x 10

Single leg hops: 1) On one leg, hop up and down; 2) hop forward and back; 3) hop side-to-side.

Bleacher hops: Standing at the bottom of the bleacher steps on one leg, hop up the steps. Walk back down and hop up again on the other leg.

Double leg bound: From a squat position with both legs, jump forward as far as you can.

Alternate leg bound: in an exaggerated running motion, bound (which looks like a combination of running and jumping) forward from one leg to the other.

Squat jumps: With hands on hips in a squat position, jump straight up as high as you can. Upon landing, lower back into a squat position in one smooth motion, and immediately jump up again. Bending the knees upon landing, tour forward knee should not migrate past the toes and the back knee should fall within 1 inch of the ground. The upper body should be maintained with an erect posture.
a. Can insert split squat jumps wherein once airborne the legs are quickly and smoothly switched front <->back.

Depth jumps: From a standing position on a one-foot tall box, jump onto the ground and land in a squat position. From this squat position, jump straight up as high as you can.

Box jumps: From the ground, jump with two feet onto a box about one foot high, and then immediately jump into the air and back down to the ground. As you get experienced with the exercise, try jumping with one foot at a time.

* Sample Plyometric Training Program taken from “An in-depth look at running economy”, Track Coach, Winter 2008, by J. Karp.

Explosive arm movements should be used in concert with leg movements in all exercises to aid with height, distance, and explosion. Additional upper body power exercises can be added the mix including the close grip snatch and one are snatch. Correlations have been made between improvements in the standing long jump, 2, 3, and 5-hop jumping with improved running performance and as a gauge of adaptation to training loads and planning. Plyometric exercises may prove not only vital foundations to appropriate injury-free running biomechanics, but also can be used to measure training effect and guide training programs.

Ian Golden is owner and operator of The Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company.