Exercise #2: Pilates-based Strengthening Exercises for Runners.

Week Two Pilates-Based Home Exercise for Runners: Leg Lowers with Resistance

Though rehabilitation for runners often focuses on gluteal activation, many of the runners I see in the clinic also have poor abdominal strength. This can result in being unable to support the lower back during longer runs, leading to stiffness and achiness in the lumbar spine.

Another area that tends to be an issue for runners is the hamstrings. Working on eccentric control(working the muscle as it is lengthening) in this muscles group is recommended for distance runners, though most of us tend to only train them concentrically(working the muscle when it is shortening – like in a hamstring curl with a weight or band).

Leg lowers work on three things that runners need: 

  1. Gluteal activation
  2. Abdominal strength
  3. Hamstring strength and length

Additionally, doing this exercise with the added resistance helps protect the lower back with some compression and less torque to the lumbar spine, compared to the floor-based unresisted leg lift Pilates exercise.

Here is the version of this exercise done on the reformer: 

1. Lie on your back on the reformer with your feet in the pulley straps and your knees bent.

2. Find your neutral spine position through your lower back. Engage your deep core muscles.

3. Begin to straighten your legs out. Adjust them to height at which you can maintain your spine in neutral.

Pilates strengthening exercises runner legs straight

4. Keeping your legs straight, begin to press your legs down towards the floor to a level that you are able to maintain neutral spine and hold for 2 slow counts.

Pilates strengthening exercises runners legs

5. Slowly bring your legs back up to vertical, or to where you can maintain your spine neutral.

Repeat 10 X 2-3 sets.

Here is the home version of this exercise:

As with the Skater exercise from last week, you will need a 6-foot piece of blue Theraband with loops tied at the ends and a door anchor. 

1. Place the door anchor in the door frame, slightly higher than the handle level.

2. Lie on the floor with your head towards the door and your feet away from the door.

3. Place your feet in the loops of the Theraband.

4. With some resistance in the band and your knees bent, find your neutral spine position and engage your core muscles.

5. Begin to straighten your legs and position to a starting point at which you can still maintain a neutral spine position in your lower back. This is your starting point for the exercise.

Pilates strengthening exercise runner legs towards

6. Slowly lower your legs towards the floor to a level at which you can maintain your spine neutral and your legs controlled. Hold for 2 slow counts and then bring your legs back up to the starting point.

Pilates strengthening Exercise Runners legs towards

Repeat 10 X 2-3 sets.

A word of caution: Keep in mind that bands can break. Always make sure that the band you are using is in good condition in order to prevent the band from snapping and breaking during the exercise. It may be wise to shield your eyes during the exercise with your hand or wear glasses. 

Tune in next week for the 3rd exercise in our series. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay in the loop.