A lack of functional strength can be linked to a majority of injuries sustained by runners. When starting a running program it's also important to incorporate strength training as part of your routine. In this weeks article we talk about strengthening the lateral chain to avoid many of the common injuries sustained by runners.
Running is primarily a sagittal plane activity (forward/backward). However, a lack of control and strength in the coronal plane (side to side) leads to a host of common running injuries including plantar fasciosis, shin splints and IT Band pain. We can create control in the coronal plan (and thus avoiding a host of injuries) through strengthening our lateral chain of muscles.
What is our Lateral Chain?
Our lateral chain is a connection of muscles/fascia/soft tissue on the outside of the body that spans the outside of the body. It includes everything from our lower leg (peroneal muscle group), to IT Band, to inter-costals, to neck musculature.
Deficiencies in lateral chain strength cause our leg to hyper-abduct, or cross the body, (see picture on the right) when we run.
This lack of control causes a number of problems in runners including
- Over-pronation of the foot (leading to plantar fasiosis and shin splints)
- Increased strain on the lateral knee (IT Band) from a higher valgus force
- Higher impact at the knee and hip.
By strengthening out lateral chain we can stop our leg from hyper-abducting and protect our bodies from injuries caused by running.
Exercises to Strengthen the Lateral Chain
With any strength program, we prefer full body functional exercises opposed to isolated muscle strengthening. This combines aspect of strength, balance and control with results that carry over beyond running. Here are three of our favorite lateral chain strengthening exercises.
1. Running Man
A full body, functional exercise to begin strengthening the lateral chain. This exercise requires balance, control, and strength in the glute med (stance leg) to perform correctly.
Perform for one minute each side, much harder than it looks!
2. Lateral Hops
Controlling landing mechanics in the coronal plane can help improve running mechanics and make it a great exercise for runners dealing with chronic injuries.
3. Farmer's Carry
Loaded carries create full body tension to strengthen our lateral chain and important core stabilizers.
Farmer's Carry's should be a staple for any strength program for runners.
If you're experiencing pain when you run it is vital that you see a rehab specialist. Pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. Pushing through the pain will only make things worse and lead to a longer recovery.