Newsletter 3: Check if you are at risk of a running injury

Newsletter 3: Self screening for signs of muscle weakness

In this newsletter, we outline how to screen yourself for signs of common running weaknesses, explain what our recent research has shown about running and tell you a bit about our new exercise physiology testing.

A part of our assessment at the Running Performance Clinic is to look at possible indicators of muscle weakness which might be limiting your ability to run well or, which may lead to a running injury.

In this newsletter, our Specialist Physiotherapists at the Running Performance Clinic, will outline some simple tests that you can do on yourself to identify any weaknesses.

Calf Capacity test

Calf strength is an essential component for injury free running. The calf comprises of two main muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus. Weakness to either of these muscles could lead to the development of shin splints, achilles tendinopathy or even calf muscle strains.

Here’s two easy ways to test your calf strength: -

Equipment required: - Exercise Step

Calf Raise with Straight Leg (testing the gastrocnemius calf muscle)

Place the ball of your left foot on the exercise step, and raise your right leg in front of you, with the knee bent at approximately 90 degrees. You can lightly hold onto the wall in front of you for balance. Keep your left leg straight, and raise up onto your toes, then slowly lower down so that your heel is below the step. Repeat until extreme muscle fatigue (failure to complete a straight leg calf raise). Repeat the same test on the right leg.

Calf Raise with Bent Leg (testing the soleus calf muscle)

Place the ball of your left foot on the exercise step and bend your left knee to approximately 45 degrees. Raise your right leg in front of you, with the knee bent at 90 degrees. You can lightly hold onto the wall in front of you for balance. Keep your left leg bent at 45 degrees, and raise up onto your toes, then slowly lower down so that your heel is below the step. Again, repeat until extreme muscle fatigue (failure to complete a bent leg calf raise). Repeat the same test on the right leg.

Single Leg Bridge with Bent Leg Capacity Test (Strength test)

Gluteal and hamstring strength is another essential component to injury free running. The gluteal muscles need to be strong to keep the pelvis stable whilst running. They also function as hip extenders and assist with driving the leg forwards, creating power with each step. Weakness to these muscles could lead to a multitude of lower limb injuries, affecting the hips, knees and ankles.

Equipment required: - Exercise Step

Lie on your back and place your left heel on a 30cm exercise step or box, and bend the knee to approximately 90 degrees, then lift the right leg straight out in front. Push down into the left heel and raise your hips upwards, so that your hips, knees and shoulders are in a straight line. Slowly lower and repeat until extreme muscle fatigue (failure to complete the bridge position). Repeat the same test on the right leg.

Single Leg Bridge with Bent Leg Capacity Test (Strength test)

Gluteal and hamstring strength is another essential component to injury free running. The gluteal muscles need to be strong to keep the pelvis stable whilst running. They also function as hip extenders and assist with driving the leg forwards, creating power with each step. Weakness to these muscles could lead to a multitude of lower limb injuries, affecting the hips, knees and ankles.

Equipment required: - Exercise Step

Lie on your back and place your left heel on a 30cm exercise step or box, and bend the knee to approximately 90 degrees, then lift the right leg straight out in front. Push down into the left heel and raise your hips upwards, so that your hips, knees and shoulders are in a straight line. Slowly lower and repeat until extreme muscle fatigue (failure to complete the bridge position). Repeat the same test on the right leg.

A good runner, with fatigue resistant calf & gluteal muscles, should be able to complete 25+ repetitions of both the calf capacity & single leg bridging tests on each side. If you can’t do many repetitions and/or you have asymmetry from left to right, then you might want to consider a calf and hip extensor muscle strengthening programme.

The tests described above are part of a detailed physical examination we offer for everyone who comes in for a gait assessment at the Running Performance Clinic. If you have a running related injury, or just want to improve the way you run, then why not consider booking an appointment to be assessed by our specialist physiotherapists at the Running Performance Clinic.

Click here to arrange an appointment.

Research into upper body position during running

Recent research, carried out at the University of Salford, has identified a clear difference in upper body position between recreational runners and elite athletes. An elite runner in this paper is defined as being able to run a 10Km in under 32 mins (male) and under 35 mins (female). The study showed that elite runners tend to run with less forward lean of the thorax (a more erect posture) especially at higher speeds. The graph below shows the inclination of the thorax at 4 different speeds. Note that the maximum speed of 5.6 m/s corresponds to a 30 min 10Km pace. The data shows that elite runners maintain a consistent low forward lean across the speeds, whereas the recreational runners lean further forwards as they run faster

This research is contrary to popular running advice to lean forwards. In fact, we think that leaning forwards will increase the amount of work that your hip extensor muscles have to do and so increase the energy it takes to run. If you are interested in whether you could be running with too much forward lean then why not consider booking in for a full 3D gait assessment at the Running Performance Clinic.

Exercise physiology testing for runners

At the University of Salford, we have recently launched an Exercise Physiology Testing service? If you’re looking to learn more about your fitness and how to make your training more effective at improving performance then this new service could help you achieve your goals.

Our staff will discuss the most appropriate tests for yours needs. Tests may include the use of specialist equipment to measure maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), blood lactate and heart rate profiles, and running economy.  Following this, a tailored report will be produced giving you details on how to optimise your training.

Assessment prices start from £80, plus as an introductory offer, we are giving a 10% discount for any assessments purchased before 31st January 2018 for our previous customers of the Running Performance Clinic. Simply quote CLINIC10 when you contact us to book your test.

http://www.salford.ac.uk/health-sciences/facilities/exercise-physiology-testing

The University of Salford Running Performance Clinic

Running Clinic 2

Want to learn how to run like an elite athlete?

Our experts will analyse the movement and running position of your legs, pelvis and spine if you book a full 3D gait analysis.

You will undergo a thorough clinical assessment, designed to assess your strength, flexibility and muscle balance. Following the assessment, your running patterns will be compared against a database of elite athletes. The findings will take the form of a personalised report which identifies problem areas which could be improved with exercises and running drills. You will also receive a personalised training programme. We recommend you return to the clinic for the follow-up running assessment, at 6-8 weeks, where we will further analyse your progress and running skills.

Click here to find out more about the running clinic and follow this link to book an appointment