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Target Muscle/s: Peroneals, Tibialis Anterior, Tibialis Posterior.
Sets & Reps: 3 x 12 repetitions (each leg)
Tempo: isometric (hold for up to 30s), concentric (push down for 1s, hold for 2s, return for 3s)
Frequency: Twice a week strength training program (or as advised if part of rehab plan)

Rationale

Much attention in running (and running shoe selection) is given to how much the arch of the foot rises and falls, and indeed many runners are still being told they are ‘overpronators’ or ‘over supinators’. Though we now know that such labelling is not a reliable method to prescribe shoes, strengthening the muscles involved in pronation and supination can be an important part of injury prevention & performance enhancement, especially if recovering from injury.

The following exercise uses an exercise band to target the lower leg muscles responsible for ‘eversion’, i.e. pushing the inner side the foot downwards so the sole faces outwards (part of pronation) and ‘inversion’, i.e. pushing the outer side of the foot downwards so the sole faces inwards (part of supination). Both of these actions are vital part of landing mechanics and propulsion. Tempo may vary according to goals but notice in the video that we take one second for stretching the band (concentric contraction), two seconds holding that position (isometric contraction) and three seconds to slowly return to start position (eccentric contraction). This tempo serves to train the different ways in which the lower leg muscles are used during the gait cycle.

EVERSION

  • To strengthen eversion, place the band in the opposite hand to the foot, then stretch it by moving the foot outwards (so sole of foot faces outwards)
  • Isometric Version: foot in the tense, everted position for up to 30 seconds. You should feel the muscles on the outer side of the lower leg (peroneals) tiring.
  • Eccentric & Concentric Version: take 1 second to stretch the band as above (concentric contraction), hold it in the everted position for 2 seconds (isometric phase) then take 3 seconds to slowly allow the foot return to start position (eccentric phase).

INVERSION

  • To strengthen inversion, place the band in the same hand as foot, then stretch it by moving the foot inwards (so sole of foot faces inwards).
  • Isometric Version: foot in the tense, inverted position for up to 30 seconds. You should feel the muscles on the front of the shin (tibialis anterior) tiring. The exercise band needs to be tense enough to allow no more than 30 seconds.
  • Eccentric & Concentric Version: take 1 second to stretch the band as above (concentric contraction), hold it in the inverted position for 2 seconds (isometric phase) then take 3 seconds to slowly allow the foot return to start position (eccentric phase).

Rehabilitation

This exercise can be very useful in the early stages of rehabbing lower leg injury. Your therapist may at first advise you to only perform the isometric version until you see strength gains. They may then progress you to an eccentric only version in which you only tense the band only during the return phase. Whatever version of exercise you are given, you will need to take the set to fatigue in order to stimulate strength gains. Bands are therefore coloured to signify level of resistance, normally from yellow (least resistance) to red, green, blue and finally black (highest resistance). You can also increase resistance by stretching the band more before engaging and by twisting it. Once sufficient strength gains have been seen, you may be progressed to more challenging exercises.

Matt Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic in Sussex. Follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt