Target Muscle/s: Glutes & Hamstrings
Sets & Reps: 3 sets of 30 seconds
Tempo: Static (isometric)
Frequency: Include in your two strength sessions a week

Rationale

The hamstrings & glutes are very much involved in maintaining leg stability during running as collectively they control when and how much internal & external rotation of the thigh bone and shin bone occur during running. To strengthen them for this role, the stability ball (also known as a Swiss Ball or Fitball) can be a very useful tool. Ball bridges are a good example of this, with the static version providing a good entry point as by taking our movement your nervous system has less to coordinate. With the static version, the goal is to fatigue the muscles sufficiently so that you cannot do more than 30 seconds. As soon as you can do longer, you need to make the exercise more challenging by choosing a harder version, e.g. moving arms away from the floor or adding weight. Once you have seen strength gains, you can then consider moving on to the dynamic ball bridge. Many running related injuries stem from having weak, uncoordinated hamstrings & glutes so including a suitably challenging version of the ball bridge exercise into your weekly strength exercises could prove very valuable, particularly if you are rehabbing an injury.

Method

  1. Lie on your back with your heels up on a stability ball, toes pointing to the ceiling.
  2. Roll your pelvis backwards slightly so that your lower back gently touches the floor and then push your body up away from the floor. Maintain this top position for up to 30 seconds ensuring that your back remains tipped back and flat (as opposed to arched and potentially painful).

Progressions

Once you are able to maintain the above position for longer than 30 seconds, you will need to find a more challenging version of the exercise. You can do this by simply increasing the stability demand of the exercise, e.g. by removing the arms from the floor (fold across chest) or pointing them up to the ceiling. A further progression would be performing an exercise with the arms whilst you stabilise the ball, e.g. raising & lowering a medicine ball or kettebell. Another way of challenging the nervous system is by closing your eyes during the exercise.

Pain In The Lower Back?

To get stronger you need to use a version of the exercise that causes failure by 30 seconds. However, the exercise should not involve lower back pain. Feeling pain may suggest you have allowed the pelvis to drop forwards and are arching your lower back, in which case you should find an easier version of the exercise that allows you to keep a flat lower back. As always, if in any doubt as to the suitability of the exercise, consult a health professional.