Strength training for the WWF Desert Challenge
What do running, mountain biking and hiking have in common? Well, all of them get us outdoors, put some wind through our hair and a big smile on our faces. They may even give us some scars and a few camp fire stories to share with friends! But from a training perspective, they all use similar biomechanics .They are sagittal plane dominated and unilateral (one sided) movements, and because of that some simple unilateral strength training exercises apply to all three disciplines and will get you in shape for the WWF Desert Challenge.
When we think about the body parts that drive us forward many of us will think legs. That is not untrue, but it is actually our hips that are the primary power house of propulsion. With that in mind, the simple drill below – the Single Leg Running Lunge- will help you to get the most out of your hips, and move you towards a stronger body that is ready to take on the Challenge. Use the Single Leg Running Lunge as a warm up before your training runs (think neuro muscular facilitation) or as part of your strength training program in the gym or at home. In my next blog I will discuss how best to transfer the strength gained through this drill into your running, cycling and hiking disciplines.
1. START by standing with your feet directly below your hips and your torso tall and upright. Slowly shift your weight onto one foot, without lifting the other off the floor. Bring your awareness of any tilt or lean that occurs and try your best to contain this. Now slide your unweighted foot back behind you as you fold forward in the hips. The key here is to keep the majority of the weight in the front heel as you bring yourself to your starting position again.
2. From your starting position, step/slide your traveling foot back further, creating more flexion in the active hip. Maintain the load in the heel of the front foot with your arms relaxed. Pause here, feel the ground below your front foot while maintaining a neutral spine. NOTE: we are aiming for single sided, hip flexion while maintaining a neutral spine. Drive your weight into the heel of the front foot as you stand back upright. You should start to feel your glutes/hamstring on the active leg start to wake up.
3. Once you feel your active leg glute starting to give you some feedback, you can drop down a little lower, and start to use your arms in a reciprocal, running manner. Once again keep your load primarily in the front foot and drive your load into the heel of that front foot.
4. At the final stage of this drill, you lift the knee of the traveling leg up in line with the hip. Focus on driving the hip forward with your glutes and try not to lock the knee out in this position (we are aiming for hip extension, not knee extension). Now repeat movements #3 and #4 for between 12 and 20 repetitions. Repeat on the opposite side.
Malcolm Gowans is the owner and founder of The Gymnasium in Cape Town, South Africa, where he inspires individuals to find a balance between strength, athletic fitness and flexibility (see www.thegymnasium.co.za). His influences stem from yoga and from his personal passion for rock climbing. He has opened over 100 rock climbs, summitted alpine peaks in two continents and trekked for multiple days with minimal provisions. In short he is accustomed to suffering!