3 Advanced Ab Workouts for a Tight Core

6 11 2011


By Kisar S. Dhillon
For Active.com

Abdominal muscles adapt quickly, so it is important to keep shocking them with different routines. These three ab exercises are super advanced and should only be done by extremely fit individuals. If you suffer from pains in your lower back, hips, hip flexors, shoulders, knees, or are prone to hernias, I would not recommend this. However, if you are a fitness fanatic who needs to be pushed out of your comfort zone, try these exercises and modify them as you like.

Workout Routine:


Abdominal Cobra Stretch Warmup

Lower Back Stretch

Stretch your abdominals by doing a modified push-up (a cobra position in yoga). Raise your body slowly until you feel the stretch, then hold it for 10 seconds. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Stretch your lower back muscles by pushing your buttocks towards your heels and holding for 10 seconds. Then come back to your original position. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Hanging Crunches With 10lb Medicine Ball

Hanging Medicine Ball Ab Exercise

Hanging from a pull-up bar, have someone place the medicine ball between your thighs. When you are ready, lift your knees towards your chest, hold for a second, then come back to your original starting position. Do this for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition, drop the ball from your thighs and perform an Isometric Hold (hold while flexing) for 30 seconds.

Pikes of Death

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

For this exercise you will need a wheel that can be put on your feet and a BOSU balancer. This can also be done with a stability ball in place of the wheel. Make sure you securely strap your feet into the wheel straps and go right into a full body plank (push-up position). Once you are stable and holding that plank, push your buttocks toward the ceiling and form a Letter-A. Hold that position for a few seconds, then release back to a full body plank. Do this exercise for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition perform another Isometric hold (hold while flexing) in the Letter-A position for 30 seconds.

Sit-Up to Squat with 10lb Medicine Ball

Sit to Squat Ab Exercise

This last exercise is going to get your heart racing. From a sit-up start position, have someone hold your feet/ankles. I usually don’t recommend someone holding your feet, but if you are extremely in shape and have no lower back or knee problems, then this will be OK.

Place the medicine ball at your chest and come up as fast as you can with momentum. When you are going up, start activating your quadriceps, gluteus muscles and hamstrings to bring you into a standing position. Once you are almost in a full standing position your spotter can let go of your feet and let you come down by yourself with the medicine ball.

This is an advanced exercise, so if you need to break it up into several sets, please do so. Do this for three sets of 20 repetitions. It is OK for the medicine ball to come off your chest for momentum, but the stronger you get the closer the medicine ball will stay against your body.



Kisar Dhillon is a professional fitness trainer living in Portland, Oregon. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology, Post Baccalaureate Studies in Exercise Physiology and a Masters in Business Administration. He has more than 16 years in the health & fitness industry and is currently the owner of 1-2-1 Fitness, LLC.

Why Runners Should be Rowers

4 11 2011


By T.J. Murphy


CrossFit Endurance coach and 100-mile trail run fanatic, Brian MacKenzie of Costa Mesa, California, scrawled a simple looking workout set on a whiteboard in his home gym, then spent five minutes teaching me proper rowing technique. I was in need of a workout to help me retain fitness while I rehabbed a foot injury, so he directed me to a rowing machine—commonly referred to as an ergometer or “erg.” Then I endured one of the most challenging cross-training workouts of my life—for exactly 12 minutes.

“Rowing is an invaluable tool for runners,” MacKenzie said. “When you learn how to do it right it lights up weaknesses you didn’t know you had. It helps runners and cyclists find power in muscles they hadn’t used before.”

MacKenzie points out that rowing is a potent weapon in an endurance athlete’s cross-training arsenal, or as a replacement for running when injuries surface. “It’s no joke,” he said. “It’s some serious, lung-searing stuff. When an athlete is dealing with a foot or Achilles tendon problem, I’ve never found issues in replacing running with work on the ergometer.”

Lori Gallon is evangelistic about the magic that rowing can bestow upon an injured runner. A registered nurse who moonlights as a personal trainer at R.A.W. Training in Wildwood, Pennsylvania, Gallon said that rowing salvaged her dream of running the Boston Marathon.

In 2009, at 42, she qualified for Boston, but two weeks into a 15-week training plan targeting the 2010 event, she developed a stress fracture in her fibula. Per doctors’ orders, she was not allowed to run or jump for eight to 10 weeks.

“I couldn’t believe I had made it that far and I didn’t know if I’d get another shot to qualify for Boston,” she said. “I talked to other trainers at my gym and decided to use rowing to train for the race. I had nothing to lose.”

In place of key running workouts, Gallon used indoor rowing. “It’s all about proper technique,” she said. “If you don’t do it right it’s not going to work.”

Gallon’s doctor cleared her to run again two weeks out from Boston. “I did one five-miler and one 10-miler. Everything else I had done in the buildup had been rowing and doing CrossFit workouts.” Gallon finished the marathon in 4:20:26.

While running and rowing are similar in cardiovascular benefits, they differ in the muscular workout they deliver. Erin Cafaro, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and member of the U.S. rowing squad, said that rowing punishes the body in different ways. “In one continuous motion rowing works legs, core, back and arms,” she said. “It’s a full-body workout.”

MacKenzie added that one of the chief benefits rowing offers runners is improved posture. “Runners typically have terrible posture, leading to bad form, leading to beating the hell out of yourself,” he said. Proper rowing, MacKenzie believes, helps runners develop robust midline stability to help shift running from smaller, weaker muscles such as hip flexors to more powerful muscles in the hips.

Properly performed rowing gives a runner a solid blast of cardio work, works the abs, core and lower back, and even develops flexibility in the hamstrings and calves.

Where should you start? Don’t make the mistake most runners do when they first hit the rowing machine and yank away—not only will you miss out on the primary benefits rowing has to offer, but you also might make things worse. Follow Erin Cafaro’s guide (on page 3) to developing proper technique.

How to Supplement a Running or Multisport Program With Rowing

Will Kirousis is the co-director of Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching and is a USA Triathlon-certified coach and strength specialist in Leominster, Massachusetts Kirousis explains why and how to adopt rowing into an overall training program.

What benefits does rowing offer runners and triathletes?

Rowing machines allow runners to do a non-impact form of endurance training. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be a better runner, your training should focus on running. However, cross-training during noncompetitive periods in the year and during recovery blocks throughout the season helps runners stay injury free and mentally fresh. Those are the key benefits of rowing for runners.

Any tips for runners and triathletes taking up rowing as cross-training?

Strongly resist the urge to become a rowing specialist. This is especially true for triathletes, who tend to want to mimic the training done in the specific sub sports of their discipline. For example, very often triathletes fall into the trap of training like Masters swimmers, road cyclists and runners rather than training like a triathlete. The same intensity and inquisitiveness that leads to those miss-steps can also lead a motivated runner or triathlete to use the erg as if he is a crew specialist. This is counterproductive because it can hurt recovery. If you’re really trying to improve on the erg, it’s likely your training load will increase on the erg and will cut into your recovery, leading to decreased volumes of sport-specific training. Both problems reduce sport-specific performance.

High-Intensity Workouts to Aid the Injured Runner

Beating back an injury but want to sustain your running fitness? Shane Farmer, a former member of the University of San Diego rowing team and now a CrossFit Invictus coach, has several basic rowing workout suggestions for injured runners who need to replace track workouts. Be sure to get the all-clear from your doctor before jumping in.

500-meter Repeats

4×500 meters, 2 minute rest between each. Similar in nature to the feel of running 800-meter intervals at a moderately high intensity. Use the memory function on the rowing computer to log your workout.

Long Sprints

8×45 seconds hard. 15-second easy recovery between each hard interval. “Good old fashioned, short, high intensity interval training,” Farmer said.

The Time Ladder

Ten minutes nonstop: four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute, building up intensity in each transition with no rest in between. The four minutes should be at a relative base tempo with the one-minute intervals at high intensity. Be sure to have enough in the tank to make moves at each time transition.

The Stroke Ladder

4×5 minutes. Each five-minute session is broken into five, one-minute segments with a focus on the number of strokes you take per minute (s/m), which the erg computer tallies in real time. First minute: 18 s/m, second minute: 22 s/m, third: 26 s/m, fourth: 22 s/m, fifth, 26 s/m.

“Again, there will be no rest,” Farmer says. “The workout should last for 20 minutes total without stopping.” Use the time spent at 18 s/m to recover. Each jump up in stroke rate will come with an increase in intensity and vice versa. “This is a really good tempo piece that teaches people how to control their output and rate of recovery, which are two very crucial aspects of rowing.”

Rowing Technique: The Essentials

  1. Proper grip. Curl your fingers around the handle and keep the wrist joints cocked slightly.
  2. Secure the feet. Insert your feet into the footrests and adjust the toe strap so that it crosses over the top shoelace. Pull the straps snug around your feet.
  3. From “The catch” or start position into the early drive. Keep your shins vertical and the muscles tight, pulling your belly button up and in, and make a point to retain good posture. Slant the upper body forward, extending powerfully from the hips. Avoid hunching your shoulders. From this position, begin the “drive” phase by employing your leg muscles with a powerful push off. Retain the forward tilt of your upper body for the first half of the drive phase—approximately a foot of travel as the seat slides backward on the rail.
  4. The drive. Push through with your legs, and in a continuous motion, begin to use your back and abs as a lever, transferring the workload to a combination of your legs and the muscles surrounding your core. Resist the temptation to begin pulling with your arms until you’ve completely channeled the power from your abdominal and back muscles. With legs fully extended, begin using your arms to pull and finish the stroke. Keep the muscles of the core—the midline stability muscles—activated and tight.
  5. The finish into the recovery. Upon completing the drive and pulling the handle to a point just in front of your upper abdominals, you will transition into the recovery phase. While keeping a tight core, smoothly return to the starting position at half the speed used in the drive. Use this time to allow the muscles to recover. Reverse the sequence of the chain of movements—arms, back and core, and finally allow the legs to return to the spring-like position of the catch.



Whether you’re at the front, middle or back of the pack, you can find helpful training tips, injury prevention tips and the latest product reviews on Competitor.com to help you run smarter, longer and faster.

Reach Your Best Running Weight: Strength Train

3 11 2011


American Running Association


If a winter downturn in training has caused a few pounds to accumulate, take heart, dieting may not be what you need.


Add Strength Training

Add strength training to your workout plan. You will get two calorie burning benefits. After each weight session, you will burn calories for longer than after a cardiovascular workout like running. And, as you build muscle you will increase your resting metabolic rate so that additional calories are burned even while sleeping or relaxing.

Researchers from Arizona State University found that energy expenditure was raised for up to two hours after a weight training session. Cardiovascular exercise generally raises metabolism for less than an hour following a workout.

Change Eating Habits

In addition to weight training, a few changes in eating habits without dieting, per se, can trim calories, improve your diet, and healthfully return you to your best running weight.

Here are tips from the Food and Drug Administration to improve your diet for health.

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grain products like whole grain breads and rice.
  • Eat only small, single servings of foods high in fat or calories.
  • Eat less sugar and fewer sweets.
  • Drink less alcohol or no alcohol.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Make sure fish, poultry, and meat are lean. Trim skin and fat.
  • Broil, roast or steam foods.


Reduced Calories Won’t Harm Performance

You will be glad to know that the reduced calorie intake necessary to drop a few pounds is not likely to impair your running performance. In a 24-day controlled study of 24 physically fit men and women, short-term calorie restriction resulted in a reduction of about 2.5 to 3.25 pounds while weight was maintained for controls.


At the same time, muscle strength (leg and shoulder press) was maintained or increased during the weight loss period. Muscle endurance measured by leg squats to fatigue and five-mile run time improved. Anaerobic capacity increased slightly in the restriction group but declined in the control group.

The authors concluded, in a statement of the obvious, that a short-term reduction in calories results in weight loss but does not impair performance. Drop those few pounds and run faster.

For more information on eating for optimum weight and health visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health Web sites.

Outdoor Circuit Training Tips From the Pros

20 10 2011


By the Editors of Men’s Health
Men’s Health

In Your Backyard

The Pro Trainer’s Workout: Body-Weight Circuit
Torch fat with this routine from Turbulence Training developer Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S.

Do this Perform these exercises as a circuit. Rest one minute only after completing all four. Complete five circuits.

1. Jumping jacks (60 seconds)

2. Spider-man pushups (until failure)
As you lower your body, swing your right leg out to touch your right knee to your right elbow. Reverse the movement and push up. Alternate sides.

3. Reverse lunge (15 reps per leg)
Stand tall, hands behind your ears. Step back with one leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Pause. Push up quickly. Do all reps, then switch legs.

4. Squat thrust (8 reps)
Squat, put your hands on the floor, and kick your legs into pushup position. Quickly reverse the move. Repeat.

Make it harder: Rest 30 seconds (instead of 1 minute) between circuits.

On the Court

The Miami Heat Workout: 10’s
This routine combines fast-paced intervals with quick changes of direction. “It’s a great fat burner, and it improves endurance,” says Bill Foran, the Heat’s strength and conditioning coach.

Do this Begin at one baseline of the basketball court and run (not at a full sprint) to the opposite end. Stop, plant your foot, pivot, change direction, and run back. Repeat four times for a total of 10 trips between baselines. That’s one set; try to complete it in 60 to 70 seconds. Do a total of two or three sets, resting only two to three minutes between each.

Make it harder Work your way up to five sets. The first few sets may seem easy, but the last few will test your physical and mental endurance.

On the Diamond

The Boston Red Sox Workout: X-Pattern Skill Drill
This drill challenges you to run in all directions at full intensity, which every player must do, says David Page, strength coach for the Red Sox.

Do this Set up four cones in a square formation, each cone 10 yards apart.

1. Sprint from cone A to cone B.

2. Immediately turn and sprint diagonally from cone B to cone D.

3. Backpedal as fast as you can from cone D to cone C.

4. Sprint diagonally from cone C back to cone A. That’s one set.

Rest two to three minutes after completing all four sprints. Repeat for five sets.

Make it harder Start the drill sitting or lying down, then jump up and run.

For more information, go to MensHealth.com/abschallenge.

10 Exercises for Flatter Abs

14 10 2011

By SELF Editors


Mix and match any (or all) of our fun firmers to make your middle little in no time.

Your trainer Lisa Wheeler, national creative manager of group fitness for Equinox in New York City, designed these moves.

You’ll need A hand towel and a 5- to 8-pound weight

The plan Take five minutes (even two minutes here, three there) most days to perform your fave combo of the chiselers. Try one set of 8 reps of all 10 moves, or pick a few and do two sets of 12 reps.

Trimming Tap

works abs, obliques, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in side plank, left palm on floor, right arm extended to ceiling, hips lifted, feet stacked. Hold plank as you tap right foot in front of left, then behind, for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Perfect Pike

works abs, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in plank with a folded towel under toes. Engage abs as you lift hips and slide feet toward hands, keeping legs straight, so body forms an inverted V. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Sizzling Swing

works abs, shoulders, triceps

Start in reverse plank: wrists under shoulders, fingers forward, legs extended. Drop hips and swing them back between arms, sliding heels and keeping legs straight. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Whittling Walk

works abs, shoulders, biceps

Start in plank, then bend elbows to bring forearms to floor; move right hand to left elbow and left hand to right elbow. Lift right arm over left, placing it in front of left on floor, as you walk toes 1 step forward. Repeat with left arm, then reverse move to return to start, for 1 rep. Repeat.

Get-Lean Lift

works abs, shoulders, butt, legs

Start in plank, then lift hips, coming into Downward Dog, as you raise left leg to ceiling and bend left knee behind you, foot flexed. Return to plank. Switch sides to complete 1 rep. Repeat.

Sculpting Sweep

works abs, obliques, shoulders, biceps

Start in plank with a folded towel under toes. Engage abs as you slide knees toward outside of right elbow, then slide feet back to plank. Switch sides to complete 1 rep. Repeat.

Side Slimmer

works abs, obliques, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in side plank, left palm on floor, hips lifted and feet stacked, right arm reaching past ear to create a straight line from ankles to wrist. Bring right knee and right elbow toward each other. Return to start for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Rear Raiser

works abs, shoulders, biceps, butt, legs

Start in plank with forearms on floor, a weight behind bent right knee, foot flexed. Tap right knee to floor, then return to start for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Play It Straight

works abs, shoulders, back

Crouch with knees bent under chest, heels lifted, arms extended, palms on floor, to start. Press forward into plank; hold for 1 count. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Waist Cincher

works abs, obliques

Start on left side, left forearm and hip on floor, feet stacked, right hand holding dumbbell on right hip (as shown). Lift hips to create a straight line from feet to head, keeping dumbbell at hip. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Basic Plank Pointers

  • Keep feet hip-width apart. Make it easier: Spread legs slightly wider.
  • Place wrists directly beneath shoulders with elbows soft, fingers pointed forward.
  • Be sure shoulders are pressed down and relaxed—no shrugging.
  • Form a straight line with back from head to heels. Remind yourself: Flat’s where it’s at.
  • Head aligns with spine, and neck is long. Focus a few inches in front of hands to adjust your position naturally.

SELF  gives you great advice on being healthy, happy, slimmer, fitter and less stressed.

Join the SELF Healthy Cities Goal on Active.com Trainer. We’ll add weekly goals to log and members of the healthiest city will get a free online training plan.

5 Exercises to Improve Running Mechanics

13 10 2011


By Jesse Kropelnicki

QT2 Systems Swim mechanics and bike fit get all of the hype these days. As triathletes, we are often keenly aware of our mechanical faults in the water, and how to make our bike position as powerful and aerodynamic as possible. The mechanics of running, however, have not yet received the respect that they deserve, until now!

My goal, with this article is to help triathletes and runners alike overcome many of running’s common mechanical pitfalls.

Running mechanics can mask an athlete’s true fitness and speed potential, especially at the Ironman distance, where many of the supporting muscle groups become so fatigued late into the race. These inefficiencies typically combine with an already slowing “engine”, and lead to very slow marathon splits, relative to the athlete’s open running ability.

This occurs on a regular basis at both the elite and age group levels, and can often be avoided by paying run mechanics the same level of attention given to swim technique and bike fit.

The goal of Ironman running is to bring as much of your open running abilities into the race as possible. We like to see no more than a 12 percent difference between an Ironman run split and an open run time.

To this end, it is important to maintain an anabolic mental state. Anabolic? You bet! Chest out and head up, like a sprinter exploding across the finish line—that is what I mean by anabolic. This is in direct contrast to the catabolic carriage, which is evidenced by a crumbling posture and negative state of mind.

Obviously, it’s unlikely that any of you are going to cross the finish line of your next Ironman looking like Usain Bolt. But, that should certainly be the ideal that we strive for, and close attention to running mechanics is our fastest ticket to getting there.

How do we reach this anabolic state of mind?

First we have to address and eliminate the issues that lead to a catabolic state that may currently haunt you. Poor flexibility, weakness in non-primary muscle groups, a cognitive inability to find proper posture, and mental weakness on race day can all contribute to your catabolic state.

Poor Extension

This is measured by how far behind the body your leg (i.e. femur) extends during the recovery phase of your running stride. I typically like to see a minimum of 16 degrees of femur extension off of the vertical.

This quality is critical in good running posture, because it typically leads to a higher running cadence. By extending the femur further behind the body, your lower leg tends to recover much higher and closer to your rear-end. With this higher recovery, the lever created from your hip, down has less rotational mass and is therefore in a position to recover forward, faster. This faster forward recovery leads to a higher running cadence and, most times, a better strike location relative to your upper torso position.

A higher running cadence helps reduce fatigue, increase speed, and reduce the possibility of injury. It’s not as simple, however, as heading out the door and thinking about the need to run with a faster cadence. This approach typically leads to hip flexor injuries due to an increased load on the hip flexors.

The key to a proper increase in running cadence is good upper torso position and hip flexor flexibility, which greatly improves femur extension.

Upper Torso Position

This is the position of your body from your waist to your ear, relative to the vertical position. Ideally, I like to see the upper torso at a forward angle of about five to ten degrees off of vertical. Proper upper torso position helps improve running cadence and sets your body up for a foot strike that falls beneath the body. This improved foot strike position reduces braking forces and vertical bounce.

Extreme vertical bounce in a runner’s gait leads to slower than necessary run times, as the balance of time moving vertically is NOT spent moving horizontally. This extreme vertical bounce can also overload the hips in, most cases upon contact with the ground. An additional one to two inches of vertical bounce, beyond normal, can relate to as much as 300 to 600 feet of vertical climbing in a flat 40-minute 10K, running at 90 steps per minute. This vertical bounce essentially creates hills where there are none!

A good upper torso position also permits the upper quad and psoas a bit of “slack”, allowing for good extension, as discussed above. While creating a good upper torso position is very much cognitive in nature, it also requires good soleus (calf muscle) flexibility. Many triathletes lack this flexibility, leading to poor running mechanics, and many times, Achilles tendonitis and/or plantar fasciitis.

So far, we have discussed two flexibilities that are critical to good running mechanics: soleus flexibility and hip flexor/upper quad flexibility. These are the very same areas that become very tight with frequent riding in the aero position. Therefore, it is with no surprise that we see so many poor running strides on the marathon course of any Ironman.

Hip Drop

This is best evaluated through video run analysis, and is presented by the dropping of one or both of the hips, upon foot strike and weight transfer.

Drawing a horizontal line across the very tops of the hip bones, a drop of more than 14 degrees can be indicative of weak gluteus media and/or TFLs (tensor fascia lata). A good video analysis will very easily identify too much hip drop and the effects that it has on your running stride.

From behind, this hip drop can be seen as a zig-zag pattern that starts at the feet, extending up through the hips, back and head. Upon the striking and dropping of the hip, we essentially see all of these body parts going in different lateral directions. The legs and hips end up leaning in different directions. The back follows the legs, and the head follows the hips. Hence, the zig-zag effect!

This is a major chain-reaction of lateral deflection being directed in opposing directions. For example, with a weak left gluteus medius the right hip drops and the left hip leans to the left, causing the legs and back to actually lean to the right. And, in a last ditch effort to keep the body from falling over, the head goes the way of the hip, leaning to the left. All of this, when our aim is to run neither left nor right, but forward!

This hip drop leads to unnecessary usage of muscle glycogen at a time when we are doing our best to preserve it. Furthermore, the hip drop also tends to contribute to a lower running cadence, because more time is spent in contact with the ground, upon foot strike and rebound. The more energy that can be put into moving forward, rather than left, right, up, or down, the faster you will be.

Lack of Shoulder Rotation

The shoulders play an integral role in efficient running posture. Many athletes are under the false impression that they should be running with a very square shoulder position. In fact, it is just the opposite as the best runners actually use their shoulder mass as a tool to help propel them forward, late in races when their lower bodies becomes extremely fatigued.

A lack of shoulder rotation tends to be cognitive in nature and/or related to a weakness in rotational core strength. A strong upper torso rotation, late in the run, requires a great deal of rotational core strength, as the athlete is relying solely on the soft-tissue strength of their core to facilitate the rotation.

Dropped Arm Position

Both dropped arm and “elbows out” positions are typically the result of hip weakness and/or cognitive habit. Typically, runners with weak hips on one or both sides tend to drop their arm on the side of the weak hip, in an effort to pull the body back over to that side. This is one of those inefficient compensatory motions that slow runners down. These arm positions tend to limit cadence as more rotational mass is presented in the form of arm mass further away from the shoulder.

Most world-class runners exhibit the same acute elbow angle deep into their recovery posture, as they maintain during the drive portion of their arm swing. It is as if the elbow is being pulled directly back from its most forward position with a fishing line!

Compensation for any of the above identified deficiencies fall into two different categories, namely cognitive and muscular. Those cognitive in nature require the runner to make mental changes to their posture while running. The recommended muscular changes can be addressed in strength and flexibility conditioning.

Below, I focus on the best, most targeted, run-specific stretching and strengthening exercises to address the deficiencies identified above.

These exercises are those that I most commonly prescribe to athletes, following a detailed running mechanics assessment. Each of these directly impact one or more of the above critical areas, required for great running mechanics.

1) Single Leg Squat:This is the single most commonly prescribed functional strength move that I use with the athletes who I assess. They can be done with a TRX, standing alone in your living room or in the gym on a smith machine. In each of these cases, the eccentric loading that must be resisted by your hips helps to eliminate hip drops through strengthening of the glut medius and TFL, among other muscle groups.

How: Stand on one foot and lower yourself down to a comfortable depth without straining your knee, then raise yourself back up. Try this without holding onto anything to get a significant balance benefit out of it. Do three sets of 10 reps.

2) Eccentric Calf Raises: This is the second most commonly prescribed run-specific strength/flexibility move that I prescribe. It helps to create a better forward upper torso position, leading to a higher running cadence and much reduced braking force. This move also practically eliminates below the knee soft tissue injuries.

How: Stand on a step with just the ball of your foot (preferably barefoot). Start on the toes of one foot and very slowly lower yourself down until your heel comfortably stops (full range of motion). Then, lift yourself with two feet, and again lower yourself with one again. Do three sets of 10 reps on each leg.

3) Two-Joint Hip Flexor Stretch: This move is very run-specific and really helps to target the hip flexors and upper quads, which are areas that are chronically tight in triathletes, due to high cycling volumes. For many years I prescribed a traditional psoas stretch to help fix very short extensions, as discussed above. However, I later realized that the two-joint stretch was more functional, helping to engage the upper quad, and critical to creating better extension and running cadence.

How: Kneel down on one knee (on a soft surface). Grasp that same side’s ankle with the hand on the opposite side—all behind your body. The leg without the knee down should be firmly planted, foot down out in front of you. Once in this position, drive the pelvis toward the ground. Many athletes will need to use a towel to grasp their ankle until they become more flexible. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and do three reps.

4) Hill Bounding: This is better categorized as a key workout, but in many cases can help to lead to better running mechanics. Initially introduced by Coach Arthur Lydiard, I have successfully used this workout, with my athletes, for the past 10 years as a key workout and run mechanics drill.

How: Hill Bounding is a type of hill repeat where you focus on getting as much vertical bounce as possible, with long strides (totally opposite of the way you would approach a hill on race day). Think “long strides and low cadence” with these. A one-minute hill with a 6 to 10 percent grade is perfect. Take four minutes between repeats. Do six to 10 of these in the context of a 75-minute run.

5) Rotational Core Work: By now, almost all athletes have realized the importance of core strength. What many athletes fail to realize is that rotational core strength is more important as a functional exercise! Practically any core specific abdominal move is fine, as long as it has a rotational component. For example, bicycle crunches.

How: There are many ways to do rotational core work. Inclined sit-ups and bicycle crunches are common.  Any core exercise that has a rotational component will suffice.

The integration of these five moves into your regular functional strength routine can help fix bad running form or help maintain already strong technique. Just two sets of each, once or twice each week, is all it takes.



Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite-level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, a leading provider of personal triathlon coaching; TheCoreDiet.com, a leading provider of sports nutrition; and Your 26.2, a leading provider or marathon training programs. He coaches professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Jacqui Gordon, Ethan Brown and Tim Snow among others. He coaches professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. Find more coaching comments and ideas at kropelnicki.com.

See Results With This Push Up Workout

23 09 2011


By Dena Stern


Good for you—you’ve been working out a lot. You did what everyone told you and you found something you love to do. So you do it over and over again—everyday.

The only thing experts seem to agree on is that the only perfect exercise is the one that you do every day—sticking with it is the only way to see results. It’s a lot harder to stick to a plan if you hate it. Finding an exercise program you like is awesome, right?

While consistency is key to achieving results from your workouts, you and your muscles will get bored if you do the same workout all the time and worst of all—you’ll stop seeing results.

The good news is that with so many exercises to choose from you can still do the exercises you love—but with a twist that will keep you challenged and seeing results.


The Exercise: Standard Push Up

See the Standard Push Upvideo

This chest builder is a classic for a reason—nothing builds your chest like this move. Plus, you don’t need any equipment and you can do it anywhere.

Do it:

Step 1:Lie on your stomach. Place your toes on the floor and keep your heels pointed toward the ceiling.

Step 2:Place your hands beneath your shoulders and push up, fully extending your arms and keeping your body in a straight line. Slowly lower your body to the floor. Push up again to return to the starting position and repeat.

The Remix: Push Up to Row

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Work both the front and back of your torso with this push up variation. The row engages your lats and the back of your shoulders as well as giving your biceps a boost. Plus, if you have wrist problems gripping weights can alleviate added pressure while you perform this move—just make sure to keep your wrist and hand in a straight line and avoid hinging at the wrist.

As an added bonus your core is going to work extra hard to stabilize you while you balance.

Do it:

Step 1:Begin in pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend both legs behind you in a wide stance with your heels pointed toward the ceiling.

Step 2:Perform one pushup and as you rise, shift your weight to your left side and lift the right dumbbell up to shoulder level, bending at the elbow. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side, alternating sides.

The Super Remix: Tough Mudder Push Up

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This advanced version takes the row one step farther—pushing your obliques to the max to stabilize while working all of the muscles in your shoulders and chest. Plus this move is so challenging it will get your heart rate up so you’ll get a calorie burning bonus from this killer move.

Step 1: Start in pushup position, with your arms straight and a dumbbell in each hand.

Step 2: Lower yourself down into a classic push up. Step 3:As you push your body up rotate slightly and bring one arm up behind you so that your hands are in a vertical line. Return to start and repeat the whole movement on the other side, alternating sides.


Dena Stern is a certified personal trainer and the Content & Community Manager for Exercise.com. She works with a highly trained group of nutritionists, trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors and athletes to provide the best information, tools and motivation related to exercise and fitness.