Improving Rotational Strength for Runners

Monday, April 25, 2016 | By Carrie Lane
 
 
 
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Improving Rotational Strength for Runners

As an endurance athlete, you’ve hopefully read some recent literature that explains why heavy, explosive weight training can help your movement patterns and prevent injury. No longer do you need to timidly skirt around those athletes working through their clean and squat workout while you head right for the little dumbbells in the corner.

Basic exercises like squats, cleans, and weighted jumps will help your running economy. You can also include more specific exercises, that are also heavy and explosive, to give you strength and durability specific to the repetitive motion of your sport. These movements address the rotational pattern that your hips and shoulders go through as you run.

The Rotational Component of Running

You may be wondering where the rotation is in running since you’re not spinning in circles like a figure skater or a discus thrower. Think of your body as an X, with your hips falling in the center of that X. As your left leg swings backward, so does your right arm. The two opposing ends of that X (left leg and right arm) create a twist in your torso. With each stride, the twist shifts in the other direction.

Imagine how many times rotational movement happens during your run. The pelvis, at the center of the movement, is the ultimate “anchor.” It must be incredibly stable to manage the constant oscillation. Hence, the reason for doing a basic lift like the squat. But what about strengthening that rotational movement of the twist mechanism itself?

The four limbs of that X actually work like slingshots. When your left leg and right arm swing backward in unison, they cause the shoulders and hips to twist in opposite directions. This oppositional twist creates a line of tension in the torso, similar to the tension in a slingshot that is drawn back. When the left foot lifts off the ground to swing forward, the slingshot is snapped, and tension (or energy) is released. The dynamic, reflexive “snap” is what propels the limbs forward.

Athletes who are strong through that X-shaped line of tension in the torso will put forth less effort with each stride than those athletes who have weaknesses along that chain. Since this slingshot movement happens literally with each step, it is imperative that athletes train this connective chain. Training rotational and diagonal movements will balance your strength and flexibility on both sides of the X.

Exercises to Increase Your Rotational Strength

Here are twelve exercises that will enhance this movement pattern. They include static exercises to strengthen the anchor and dynamic exercises to strengthen the slingshot. Remember that the twist happens on both your front and backside, so this video includes both anterior and posterior work. Make sure you do each exercise with force and/or with challenging weight.

Power and Strength in Rotational Movements

The video below demonstrate 12 movements and exercises you can do in order to build your rotational strength.

Performing these exercises will increase your rotational strength and help you prevent injury while making you a more efficient, and faster, runner. 

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