Category Archives: leg exercises

3 Fast Twitch Muscle Exercises to Improve Running Performance

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Improving running performance is multi-faceted; the aim of this article is to focus on exercises related to fast twitch muscle fibers and explains a general overview of their function.

Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

Type II fibers are involved in any activity that includes a quick explosive movement or the rapid development of power. Most common applicable example would be football players and track and field athletes.   Type II fibers develop more power then Type I or slow twitch muscle fibers because the Type IIx fiber can contract 10 times faster than the Type I fiber. The more adept you become at recruiting your Type II fibers; the more power you can develop. This leads to faster sprint times and decreased mile times for more focused short distance runs.

Two Types of Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

1) Type IIa (Fast Twitch, Oxidative-Glycolytic)

  • High number of mitochondria
  • Can use both fat stores and glycogen stores for energy
  • Resistant to fatigue and recover quickly
  • Good for fast, repetitive, low-intensity activity. Bodybuilders possess high numbers of Type IIa muscle fibers, and research suggests they play a big role in muscle size.

2) Type IIx (Fast Twitch, Non-Oxidative)

  • Low number of mitochondria
  • Large in diameter
  • Fast fatiguing
  • Good for high-intensity, large-power output, such as track/field events and power lifting.

Training for Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

There are a number of ways to increase your ratio of Type II fibers—heavy strength training, speed training, plyometric training and Olympic lift training. Training does a few things:

  1. Hypertrophy or growth of the Type II fibers, increasing their power output.
  2. Help recruit, put them into applicable use of Type II fibers faster.
  3. Change Type I fibers to Type II fibers.

Fast-Twitch Muscle Workouts:

1) Dumbbell reverse lunges with quick switches utilizing jumps:

Preparation:

  • Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Ensure you have at least a few feet of clearance behind you.
  • Start with your chest out, head up, and a slight bend in your knees.

Exercise:

Step backward with your right leg, landing on the ball of the foot, then bend both knees to lower yourself to the floor. (Make sure to step back far enough so your front knee is behind the toes at the bottom of the movement.) When your front thigh is parallel with the floor, extend your knees and hips to stand back up to the start position. Alternate legs with jumps or quick transitions every rep.

2) Box jumps w/ kettlebell:

Preparation:

  • Obtain a plyometric box between 12-36 inches, depending on your abilities.
  • Grab a kettlebell where you can do 8-12 repetitions rather quickly.
  • Ensure you have enough room to safely land and clear jumps. Preferably 5ft by 5ft.

Exercise:

Assume an athletic position, with your feet about shoulder-width apart, at a comfortable distance from the box. Start the box jump by quickly getting into a quarter squat while hinging at the hips to engage the hamstrings and gluteus. Place and keep your hands at the crest of the kettlebell, so both hands are holding the bell. Hold the kettlebell close to your chest, just below chin level. Then, forcefully extend your hips, swing your arms and push your feet though the floor to propel yourself onto the box. Focus on landing lightly on top of the box with your knees slightly above 90 degrees with your chest up. Hold for two to three seconds, stand tall, and step back down. Repeat.

3) Deadlift followed by a squat jumps

Preparation:

  • Set an Olympic straight bar on the ground and load it with appropriate weight.
  • Ensure your space is clear and that you have enough room to work.

Exercise

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead or slightly outward (no wider than 11 and 1 o’clock). The balls of the feet should line up under the bar. With knees slightly bent and hands gripping the bar slightly outside of legs, hinge forward from hips. With the bar close to shins, keep head up, eyes looking forward, chest out, and back flat. Inhale. Keeping the bar close to the body, exhale as you work to straighten the legs — drive through the heels, not the toes — and bring the weight up past knees. Keep core engaged throughout the entire movement (this helps protect the spine) and finish by thrusting the hips into alignment with the feet and squeezing your glutes. Maintaining a straight back, slowly hinge forward at the hips (allow knees to bend a little at the same time) and lower the bar back to the ground. That is one rep.

For the squat jumps, step back from your deadlifting bar, set your feet shoulder width apart. Lower yourself down to where hips / gluteus is loaded towards your rear. Bring your bottom to knee level and thrust straight up landing tall onto the toes then reset. Repeat.  

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Sources:

Josh Williams – 3 ways to develop fast-twitch muscle

Bill Rom – Workouts That Increase Speed & Train Fast Twitch Muscles

Anton Reid, Demand Media- How to Develop Fast-Twitch Leg Muscles

Google images

 

3 Lower-Body Exercises to Improve Running Efficiency

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Running is a total body kinetic chain exercise; however, we know that sustaining and enduring through a run, holds a primary focus on the core and lower body. Greater strength does equal greater endurance.  In order to build what is now commonly referred to as functional strength as applied to running technique we need to emphasize low body conditioning with a focus on lower back strength, core strength, and the gluteus.

Below are three exercises to add to your overall lower body strength training routine.

 Exercises:

  • Supine Core Ball Leg Lifts:

Why do it: Builds lower back strength; towards preventing back injury. Boosts core strength and efficacy.

How to: Start by lying in the supine position (on your back) on a workout mat. The legs should be straight and the palms should be face down under the buttocks. This will assist the pelvis with leverage as you initiate the leg raise. Next, with the feet together squeeze the core ball w/ your heels and inner thighs lifting the legs approximately 15 to 20 inches off the ground. Slowly lower the legs to the starting position and repeat the exercise. Emphasize breathing out as the legs go up.

 

  • Supine Core ball Figure-4 Glute Bridge:

Why do it: Your glutes help stabilize your hips while running. This exercise is designed to wake up your gluteus and create a backside that is both strong and supportive of the upper bodies load.

How to: Lie face up with your arms pressed into the floor by your sides, knees bent, heels on top of the ball. Cross your right ankle on top of your left thigh, turning your right knee out to the side. Press your left heel down into the ball and raise your hips up as high as you can (focus on using your glutes to lift your body, not your hamstrings). Hold for 1 count and then slowly lower. Integrate this exercise into your total rep/set progressions and repeat with the right leg.

 

  • Internal Rotation Leg Press:

Why do it: This move works your abs, hip flexors, gluteus, quadriceps, and inner thighs to help you develop strength that will support your strides.

How to:  Lie faceup with your hands behind head. Bend your knees 90 degrees and flex your feet. Internally rotate your legs, pressing your knees together and turning your heels out to the sides as far as you can. Brace your abs in tight and lift your upper back off the floor. Extend your legs out into a wide ‘V’ position at about 45 degrees, pressing out through your heels. Bend your legs and squeeze your knees back together, keeping your upper back lifted, to return to the starting position.

 

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Sources:

– Brendan Brazier – Endurance Training and Nutrition

– Jessica Smith – The Ultimate Strength Workout for Runners

 

3 Upper Body Strength Training Exercises That Improve Running Performance

ImageBy: Geoff Rubin, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Our bodies interact as one integrated system. When emphasizing proper running form, we must look at the performance of how the entire kinetic chain is moving, from the toes all the way up. While running, your arms counterbalance the motion of your legs, resulting in saved energy. The swing of the arms helps drive the body forward so the lower body is not doing all the work. Having a strong upper body bolsters a runner’s form when fatigue sets in.

Incorporate the following exercises to build upper body strength in the weight room as to improve running performance. Many of the exercises below focus on unilateral or single limb exercises to replicate proper running form. They also emphasize balance at the shoulder joint, counteracting pronation of the shoulders from the blunders of a sedentary work environment.

1: Single Arm Body-weight Row

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  • How to do it: Use a TRX or barbells set at sternum height. Grab the bar/ handle with one hand using a neutral (palm facing in) grip. Walk your feet forward so that your body comes closer to parallel with the ground. Pull your shoulder back and be sure to keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement. Pull your chest to the bar keep your shoulders square the entire time.

  • How this helps: Rounded shoulders prevent proper running form by limiting the ability of the chest to expand. Incorporating more pulling exercises in your strength training program is one way to even out the chest by retracting and depressing the shoulders. This pulling exercise forces your core and upper body to maintain a square posture similar to the running motion.

2: Torso Rotation with Resistance Band

ImageHow to do it: Secure a cable or resistance band at waist height on your right side. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold the cable in front of you with straight arms—there should be tension in the cable. Brace your core. Maintaining an erect torso and without moving your legs, rotate your torso so that your hands (and the cable) move to the left while maintaining your original head position. Rotate back to the start and all the way to the right. Switch positions so the cable is on your left side, and repeat.

How this helps: Arm swinging requires movement and a level of rotation in your upper spine. Your body rotates like a pivot.” To ward off fatigue, “we need to make sure the thoracic (upper) spine is nice and loose.” – (Ali Gelani, M.S., CPT)

3) Alternating High Knees

ImageHow to do it: Stand in place with your feet hip-width apart. Drive your right knee toward your chest while keeping your left arm at a 90 degree bend as to connect the two sides and quickly place the leg and arm back to their starting positions. Follow immediately by driving your left knee toward your chest with your right arm bent at a 90 degree angle. Continue to alternate knees with the corresponding arms.

How this helps:  The action of running is a fluid forward progression with minimal trunk rotation. Incorporating the motion of high knees drives the hip forward contracting the quads while emphasizing a counterbalanced motion of the hands. This translates over to the pavement.

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Sources:
Jeremey DuVall, M.S., CPT

NIKKI KIMBALL, M.S.P.T.

Ali Gelani, M.S., CPT

5 Strength Training Exercises for Running Enthusiasts

Who knew that in order to increase running efficiency, lessen injury potential and develop more core and lower body stability that we need to incorporate “strength training” as opposed to just running more? Well, if you find yourself on the side of choosing to run more, you might want to consider adding a strength training component to your work out regime. Fitness Propelled has been examining preventative running practices, injury treatments and understanding common running injuries. Now, it is time to take our collective knowledge and become proactive by applying the exercises portrayed below. Recommended 3 sets of each @ time and repetitions listed.

1)      Reverse lunges with overhead presses:

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  • Hold a pair of dumbbells straight above your shoulders, with your arms straight and elbows locked. Step backwards with your left leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your right leg. That’s one repetition. 12-15 repetitions per set.

              i.      Muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, shoulders, core

2)      Planks:

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  • Prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abdominal muscles are tight, and shoulders are directly above the elbows and down and back, not hunched up. Hold this position for 45 seconds to one minute per set. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.

                   i.      Muscles worked: core, lower back, shoulders

3)      Stability ball back extensions:

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  • Lie face-down on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance. Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support. Squeeze your gluteus and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. As you lift your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground, keeping your elbows bent. Extend your arms overhead. Hold for one or two seconds. Release your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. That’s one rep. Aim for 12-15 repetitions per set. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.

                   i.      Muscles worked: lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders

4)      Kettlebell squats w/ rotational twists

ImageHold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, and lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press the kettlebell above your head to the right shoulder rotating through your abdomen, return the kettlebell to the original position and repeat to the left shoulder. 12-15 repetitions per set.

                       i.      Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders

5)  Stability ball hip extensions or gluteus bridges

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  • Lie on your back on the floor, and place your calves on a stability ball. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag (keep with your body at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you.

                  i.      Muscles worked: hamstrings, gluteus, core

 

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How do you go about preventing and treating running injuries?

Fitness Propelleds’ previous article was all about identifying and understanding some of the more common running injuries. In this article we will provide you with handy tools as to prevent those injuries from occurring and present a few strategies in order to treat injuries that have occurred.

Preventative Components:

1)      Stretching for the task: Examples

  • Dynamic (pre- run):  Leg swings: Hold onto a sturdy object, stand on one leg and swing the other leg forward and back. Do 15-20. Then swing that same leg side to side the same number of times. Each swing should build until your leg is close to its full range of motion.

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  • Static (post-run):  Kneeling hip flexor and hamstring: From a kneeling position, plant the right foot on the ground in front of you, so the leg is bent 90 degrees, with the knee and ankle aligned. Keeping your back straight, press forward into your right hip while keeping your left knee pressed into the ground, stretching your left hip and right hamstring. To increase the stretch to the left hip flexors, squeeze and contract the glute muscles of your left hip.

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2)      Cross Training: Examples (Infuse multiple modalities of training into your regime that will increase aerobic capacity and develop lower extremity stability, mobility and power) 

10 Minute Recumbent Bike Example: 

  • 2 min warm up resistance 4
  • 2 min resistance 8 (burst)
  • 1 min resistance 4 (paced)
  • 2 min resistance 12 (paced)
  • 2 min resistance 8 (burst)
  • 1 min resistance 4 (paced – cool down)

10 Minute Eliptical Example:

  • 2 min warm up resistance 4
  • 2 min resistance 6 (burst)
  • 1 min resistance 4 (paced)
  • 2 min resistance 8 (paced)
  • 2 min resistance 4 (burst)
  • 1 min resistance 4 (paced – cool down)

Treatment Strategies:

  • Every treatment program should always start with a conversation from a trusted medical professional. Rest, ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories should be applied to reduce inflammation. A reduction in inflammation improves the range of motion of an injured joint and will speed up the healing process.
  • Follow the re-integration 10% rule once you hit the pavement again. Increase your total mileage by no more than 10% each week.
  • Schedule those ever essential days off as to avoid re-injury and maintain running courses that avoid excessive downhill running.

 

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10 Minute Recumbent Bike Example

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Let us be your one stop shop for fitness.  Check out www.fitnesspropelled.com

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Understanding Common Running Injuries

ImageAs a rather new, however avid running enthusiast, I wanted to investigate common running injuries that many passionate runners will often face. It’s important that we identify these potential injuries in advance as to avoid injuries in our future. With the health benefits of running bountiful from controlling weight, improving cardiovascular function and help alleviate a host of chronic health problems; it is clear as to why running has become so popular. However, with all of these advantages comes a toll on our lower extremities. Studies suggest knee-related injuries are the most common, accounting for 26-50% of all lower-extremity injuries, the foot, ankle and lower leg make up the other 50%, with hip and lower back always susceptible as well (Ellapen et al.2013; van Gent et al.2007;O’Toole 1992).

Well, what are the most common injury causes?

– rapid increase in weekly mileage

– continuous high mileage (runners averaging 50-70 miles per week have a 50% chance of injury (O’Toole)

– abrupt change in running surface

– failure to follow hard training days with light training days

– wearing inadequate or worn-out footwear

– running on uneven surfaces

– returning to previous mileage too fast after a layoff

– history of previous injuries

– too much hard interval training

– muscle imbalances near a lower-extremity joint and/or inadequate muscular strength or range of motion

Check out the table below for listings of injury sites & type along with injury mechanisms

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Injury Site and Type

Injury Mechanisms

Knee: Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or “runner’s knee,” is pain originating from the patella (kneecap). (Lopes et al. 2012)

Knee/hip: Illiotibial band syndrome

Illiotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a sharp pain along the illiotibial band, which lies along the lateral portion of the thigh, from the hip to the knee. (O’Toole, 1992)

Lower leg: Meidial tibial stress syndrome

Commonly known as shin splints, medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) is a pain on or near the anterior midline of the lower tibia, or shinbone (Lopes et al. 2012)

Lower leg: Achilles tendinopathy

Achillies tendinopathy (tendonitis) is a pain or stiffness along the Achilles tendon, caused by inflammation of the tendon and/or the tendon sheath. (Lopes et al. 2012)

Foot: Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a widespread running injury to the foot. (Lopes et al. 2012) The plantar fascia consists of thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot, extending from the medial tubercle of the calcaneus (heel bone) to the metatarsal heads.

Summer’s Here and the Heat is On: Summer Shorts Workout

Summer is quickly approaching leaving many people excited about the prospect of shedding layers of cold-weather clothing. This often means exposing more skin, especially if you enjoy wearing shorts. With the goal of helping fitness seekers confidently rock those short summer shorts, Fitness Propelled trainer Geoff Rubin recommends the following additions to your workout routine. These exercises are exceptional choices for targeting the muscles that contribute to toned, shapely legs, as all three exercise movements below, will work the hips and thighs. Add them two to three times per week to a program that also includes a balanced diet and you will feel stronger and look even better in your summer shorts.

Exercise 1: Stationary Sumo Squats

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Starting Position: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width (24-36″) with your arms by your sides. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. Do not allow your low back to arch. Brace your abdominal / core muscles to stabilize your spine.

Movement: Drop into a wide-stance squat position (mechanics are similar to regular squat), lowering your body to a comfortable depth or until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your body weight rests on your heels. Feel free to position your arms where they assist you in maintaining balance. Return to starting position.

Sets / Repetitions: 3 sets of 20 repetitions

 

Exercise 2: Forward Lunge with Arm Drivers

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Step 1: Starting Position: Stand with your feet together, arms raised in front to shoulder height, and elbows straight. Pull your shoulders blades down and back without arching your low back. Brace your abdominal / core muscles to stabilize your spine.

Step 2:  Slowly lift one foot off the floor, balancing on the standing leg. Avoid any sideways tilting or swaying in your upper body and try not to move the standing foot. Hold this position briefly before stepping forward. The raised (swing) leg should contact the floor heel first, slowly shifting your body weight to the front foot. Plant the front foot firmly on the floor. Avoid any sideways tilting or swaying in your upper body and try not to move the foot.

Step 3: As you lunge forward, focus on dropping your hips downward toward the floor rather than forward. This will help control the amount of forward movement of your shinbone over your foot. Continue lowering your body to a comfortable position or until your front thigh becomes parallel with the floor and your shinbone is in a slight forward lean. As you lunge, bend forward at your hips, reach your arms toward the floor in front of you. Keep your back flat and elbows straight. Your hands are reaching to a point somewhat below your front knee. This increases the load on your gluteal (butt) muscle group.

Step 4: Firmly push off with your front leg, working your thigh and butt muscles, to return to your upright, starting position.

Sets / Repetitions: 3 sets of 20 repetitions (Both legs)

Exercise 3: Side Lunges

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Step 1: Starting Position: Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart. Your hands are in a comfortable position to help you maintain your balance during the exercise. Keep your head over your shoulder and your chin tipped and slightly upward. Shift your weight onto your heels. Engage your abdominals to stabilized the spine. Pull the shoulder blades down and back. Try to maintain these engagements throughout the exercise.

Step 2: Inhale and slowly step to the right while keeping your weight into your left heel. Both feet are still facing forward. Once your right foot is firmly placed on the floor, begin to shift your weight toward the right foot, bending the right knee and pushing the hips back. Continue to lunge until your shinbone is vertical to the floor and your right knee is aligned with the second toe of your right foot. Your left leg should be as straight as possible and your body weight should be distributed into the right hip. The heels of both feet should stay flat on the floor. Your arms can be positioned where necessary to help maintain your balance.

Step 3: Exhale and push off firmly with your right foot, returning to starting position. Repeat the movement for the opposite side.

Sets / Repetitions: 3 sets of 20 repetitions (Both legs) 

 

Sources: ACE Exercise Library