Although a large part of running involves the “sagittal” plane (or forward motion), it is actually a tri-planar activity, meaning it combines forward, side-to-side, and rotation motion. Therefore, it is important to consider that running-related injuries could be a result of other plane deficits in runners and not just an issue related to forward motion. This means that, in an effort to avoid injury, runners should specifically train and improve their side-to-side motion and rotation motion.
We must also consider the fact that the majority of time spent running is in single-leg stance (i.e., on one foot), so runners need to improve their balance and become more exposed to variable loads while maintaining control in single-leg stance.
To help further prepare or rehab runners for the performance demands of the sport, below is a variety of exercise progressions that focus not only on strength but also on motor control and endurance in frontal and transverse plane movements specifically for runners.*
- Single-leg stance combined with hip abduction: This focuses on postural stability with the addition of transverse and frontal plane control. Add a TheraBand for increased difficulty. Action: Stand on one leg and extend the other leg out to the side (the extended foot does not need to be lifted very high off the ground for this exercise). If using a band for resistance, it can be placed just above the knees, just above the ankles, or around the feet (at the middle of the foot) for added resistance.
- Lateral and cross-body toe taps: This exercise increases lateral hip musculature. Hold weights for increased difficulty. Action: Keep one leg stationary and with a bend in the knee while moving the other leg behind it, across the body. Keeping the torso stable, tap the toe and then bring the leg straight out to the side and tap the toe again. Repeat. This can be done with or without holding a weight.
- Quick crabwalks with a mini band: Running is about rhythm, timing, and a quick response time. The more time spent on a runner’s feet means the more time the runner needs to maintain control of the hips and lower extremities, thus the more time the hips and lower extremities are exposed for incorrect movement patterns related to their injury. Action: Take small steps side to side in a mini-squat position, using a mini band around the legs as resistance. Start with the mini band placed just above the knees for a few sets, then move it to just above the ankles. Steps should be small enough that the band should not move and the feet should not come together.
- Sidestep to lateral hop progression: This exercise increases the demand for dynamic control. Action: To start, take a wide step to one side, tapping the toe of the opposite foot behind the stepping foot. Repeat with the other side. Progress to a slight hop from side to side, still tapping the toe. Then progress to a quicker hop, this time holding the foot in the air rather than tapping the toe. This will eventually progress to a fast hop from side to side with little to no pause in between and again holding the foot rather than tapping the toe.
- Single leg stance sliders: This exercise resets control through the buttock and creates better buttock control when running. Action: Place a band around the front knee for resistance and, using a Moving Men slider, push the other leg back into an extension. Slide the leg back to the starting position and repeat.
These exercises are higher-level activities that should be led by a physical therapist. For more information on repetitions or specific form for these exercises, contact us at email@example.com.
*Screenshots for the first four exercises are from the article by Chris Johnson in the references section.
Johnson, Chris. “Five Frontal Plane Exercises for Runners to Master.” ZEREN PT & Performance. November 10, 2015, http://www.zerenpt.com/blog/five-frontal-plane-exercises-for-runners-to-master (accessed December 11, 2015).
Kovar, Elizabeth. “How to Correct Form with Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).” ACE Fitness. December 8, 2014, https://www.acefitness.org/blog/5206/how-to-correct-form-with-reactive-neuromuscular (accessed December 11, 2015).