When we think of running (short or long distance), we often don’t think of the biomechanics within the body which are producing the movement. Rather it can be easier to think of it as placing one foot in front of the other, with a little bit of propulsion to get us moving. And this at a basic level this is fine, but if or when we begin to increase our running intensity, capacity, or distance, understanding the biomechanics can be really useful to prevent injuries and increase our ability to improve.
Running is not a symmetrical movement, you have different parts of the body moving at different times, doing very different things. Running mainly relies on sagittal movements (a vertical plane that divides the body into left and right sides), as the arms and legs move forward. But there needs to be a rotational component else the joints in the leg wouldn’t be able to support the bodies weight on each side.
Seeing as there are many aspects of running, this post will purely focus in on the rotational component.
Due to the nature of running; a mixture of absorption, propulsion and swing phases, there will be movements in opposite directions. These opposing movements create rotation within the body, especially between upper and lower body. This is where hip stability, core strength and the muscles supporting the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae come into play.
Core muscles and muscles supporting the spine include:
- External oblique: side abs that help rotate the trunk.
- Rectus abdominis: flexes the torso and spine.
- Lumbar multifidus: helps stabilize the spine.
- Internal oblique: helps rotate and turn the trunk
Hip stabilizers include:
- gluteus medius
- gluteus maximus
- deep core muscles
To optimise running efficiency and prevent injuries, it’s important to incorporate rotation strength into training. If we don’t have the range in rotation or the strength, we can cause imbalances and create injury potential. An example of this is when a runner may complain of restriction in hamstrings or shoulders, however, when examined it may be found that the limitation is in rotation of the pelvis, causing the problem.
Rotational strength exercises include:
- Pallof Press
- Rotational med ball slams
- Side planks
- Renegade Rows
If you’re a runner and you’ve been experiencing pain, check in with your AEP to see if they can assess for any muscle weaknesses or imbalances which may be hindering your running potential!