So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Strength Training? Heavy Weights Won't Do "Squat"

To look at my leg muscles it would be hard for most anyone to say I need to work on leg strength. I have a set of quadriceps, a by-product of years of windy bicycle rides in the New Mexico desert, which make sprint cyclists a little nervous. However, I wasn't blessed with a well-balanced musculature, which may be the reason (besides overuse, and stubbornly not taking extra rest days when needed) for some of my biomechanical problems in the past.

The hack squat.
 About five years ago, my friend Jay Yanovich had me on a very simple strength-training plan.  The plan consisted of little more than a 20-minute warm-up on the elliptical trainer, followed by three sets of 15 hack squats, performed in a very slow and deliberate manner, with very light weight resistance. "If you do them right," Jay said, "your quads will quiver near the end of each set." Each set of hack squats was interspersed with a set of 10 assisted squats at the side of the hack squat rack. After the squats I would use a "stretch machine" to work on my flexibility. After the initial shock of (over-)firing large muscles wore off during road runs, I could sense some surprising power in my legs, especially at the latter end of short races.
Researchers found a strength training program, added to endurance running, improved run performance in recreationally fit women when compared with run-only training. This week I'm looking at a series of exercises which can be done either at the local gym with the lower extremity machines or dumbbells, or at home with a set of dumbbells.
Muscle endurance, without bulk, is the balance runners need to find when approaching a strength training program. To increase muscle endurance without hypertrophy, the exercises should involve 12-to-15 repetitions for two to three sets, and have about a minute of rest between sets.  If weight is added, make certain it is no more than half of what could be lifted for one repetition.
Most of the exercises below can be done with or without a weight and (except for the first) focus on one leg at a time. If a movement aggravates or causes pain, avoid doing it or ask a strength trainer whether an alternative exercise exists.

LEG RAISES: Hang with the arms from a horizontal (chin-up) bar. Slowly lift both feet (keeping the legs straight) simultaneously toward the ceiling until the legs are parallel to the floor. Slowly lower the legs back to the starting position and repeat. Try to not swing the legs as you transition from one repeat to the next.

CALF RAISE: Stand with the ball of one foot on a raised surface such as a stair with the sole of the foot parallel to the floor. Slowly raise onto the toes, then slowly back to the starting position. Do not lef the heel drop below the level of the forefoot. This exercise can also be performed using dumbbells.

SEATED CALF RAISE: Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Place a dumbbell on your knee, balanced with your hand. Extend your foot so that your heel is off the floor and your foot is on its toes. Slowly lower your heel back onto the floor. Repeat this exercise with the other foot.

LUNGES: Start the exercise standing upright. You may use dumbbells or a barbell for extra weight. While keeping the back straight, lift one leg and lunge forward as if taking a large step. Bend the knee until the quadriceps muscles are parallel to the floor. Keep the quadriceps and lower leg at a right angle to minimize stress on the knee. Return to the upright position and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

STEP-UPS: Facing a stable chair, box or step 12-to-18 inches high with hands on hips, step up onto the raised surface one foot at a time so your are standing on top of it. You may add resistance by holding dumbbells in each hand. Step down backward, one foot at a time, to the starting position. Repeat the exercise starting with the opposite foot.

Remember while doing any strength training to breathe throughout the exercises; exhale on the movement and inhale on the return. Also make certain to maintain a neutral position (back/hips) throughout the exercise, use a weight which can be controlled throughout the entire exercise movement and do not lock your joints (knees, in the case of lower extremities) at any time during the exercise; use the almost complete, but not total, range of motion.

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