Running is a consistency sport: the more times you run, in theory, the better you will get.
Increasing the frequency of times we spend on our feet will enable our body to accustom itself to the metronomic movement of running, increase the rate of adaption of our muscles and ultimately, make us into better and more accomplished runners.
All of this sounds quite straight forward, but unfortunately, running can lead to a plethora of injuries. Roughly four times our body weight is absorbed by our knees and hips when we run on hard surfaces. If there is a slight biomechanical anomaly or instability in our technique, this will be exasperated each time our foot connects with the floor. Over time and persistent repetition, this will lead to injuries and our running development stopped.
Thankfully, there are many ways we can work on our biomechanics issues and imbalances that have plagued our running technique. But using a weighted ball can help us improve our posture, gait and overall strength development that will maintain the consistency and frequency of our running.
Why the medicine ball for runners?
The medicine ball is a great piece of equipment for runners as it enables sufficient strength development without over fatiguing our muscles. It is great to use in circuits and to provide additional strength-base exercises.
The benefits of the medicine ball for running?
Having good posture, core and balance are an essential trio in running efficiently. Using the medicine ball can isolate these groups, which will allow the athlete to focus independently on each one. Having a weighted ball as an additional training variable will ensure the stability exercises are more difficult for the individual and that these fundamental characteristics of running are tested fully.
How to exercise using the medicine ball?
A great exercise with a medicine ball is walking over a series of hurdles.
Initiation Phase: The runner’s arms are stretched directly above them, elbows locked and holding the ball over their head, core engaged, looking straight ahead and standing tall.
Execution Phase: Raise the knee as high as high as it can go while maintaining good posture. Kick out the lower leg and step over the hurdle. During this phase, ensure your core is engaged. This will prevent the hips from dropping and will keep them in a neutral position. Plant your foot on the floor leading with the ball of your foot and slowly come down on to your heel. Avoid leaning forward with your torso and collapsing over the hurdle.
Recovery Phase: Keeping your foot firmly on the ground with your toes pointed forward, bring your back leg over the hurdle focusing on not collapsing your hips. This is the hardest phase as it is easy to over-twist your torso as the weight of the medicine ball will force you off balance. Finish the move with both feet firmly on the floor, arms above your head, elbows locked, keeping the ball held above your head maintaining good posture.
To increase the difficulty, add more hurdles to walk over and take larger steps, so the range of motion in your recovery phase is greater and therefore will put your core, postural and stabilising muscles under more stress.
The array of exercises that the medicine ball can offer is fantastic for a runner looking to improve their overall conditioning and stability. It is important every runner focuses on these intricate moves as they complement your running miles and keep you running further for a long time.
Nick Beer is a Master Personal Coach at Virgin Active and an International British Elite Triathlete and Sports Rehab Specialist with a wealth of experience providing nutrition advice for weight loss and performance.