Stability is one of the most important physical traits for trail runners as they traverse bumpy terrain. You need strong glutes, knees and ankles. But it’s more than just powerful big muscle groups, it’s important that the small stabilising muscles get a workout too and here’s a few exercises to add to your routine.
Wobble boards are a great tool for many exercises. They are a small plank, on a half ball, that require immense balancing skills. For beginners, just try standing still on a wobble board for an extended period of time. Once you’ve mastered that, try with one leg. You can squat on a wobble board too.
Once you think you’ve mastered the balancing act, try a single leg Romanian dead lift. Hold a weight in one hand, and slowly lean forward. Bearing your weight on one leg, lift the other one up behind you until it is parallel to the ground and then return to the upright position.
Elastic band squat walks
Put a strong band around your legs, just above your knees. Bend your knees and drop your hips, but not too much, then begin to slowly walk forward in small steps. Keep your legs shoulder-width apart. You’ll have to resist the band each time you lift a foot to stop your legs snapping together. You can walk forwards, backwards or even sideways like a crab. This will strengthen your glutes and all the small stability muscles around your knees.
Single leg band stretches
Put a band around a solid structure, like a pole or the frame of the squat rack. Then, put it around your leg and step back so there is tension in the band. Make sure the band is against the back of your knee and your knee cap is facing the pole or frame. Bend your knee, lean forward and lift your back leg. Then return to the upright position.
The squatting action will strengthen your glute and quad, while the band will help improve your stability as it resists the pull.
Walking lunges with high knee holds
Walking lunges are a great exercise for all runners. They require balance and strength. You can vary the amount you do or the weight. But you can make them even more effective for stability training by adding a holding phase between each lunge.
First, perform a conventional lunge: Step forward, and drop your back knee to the ground. Make sure your front knee does not move beyond your toe.
Drive through your front foot’s heel to bring yourself into the standing position. But instead of immediately dropping into the next lunge, keep your back leg moving up until the quad is parallel to the ground and your shin is hanging down. Pause, and hold it for five seconds. Then come forward into the next lunge, drive up again and bring the other leg up and hold it.
The lunge will strengthen your leg, and the pause in the middle of each lunge will force your load baring leg to balance, thus improving your stability.