Having a plan is important in all aspects of running. Our plan for training, nutrition, and the weight room should all be done with purpose. When it comes to strength training, one area that is often neglected is progressively loading the frontal/coronal plane. Many lifts athletes perform (deadlifts, lunges, squats, etc.) are largely oriented in the sagittal plane. I talked about the importance of challenging the sagittal plane in my last blog post.
Being able to absorb force in the frontal plane is beneficial both for runners to stay healthy and return to competition following an injury. By minimizing excessive motion in this plane, we allow our big sagittal plane muscles to do their job. Whether in the late stages of rehab, or helping runner's with performance enhancement, advancing exercises past simple bodyweight and band resisted exercises is important to achieve a runner's goals.
Many runners are familiar with basic band exercises for challenging the frontal plane. Exercises like clamshells and standing hip abduction can be great entry points to challenging the frontal plane. I use this exercise with my clients and patients all the time.
A lot of runners stop there. With strength training, our goal is to progressively load an athlete. For many, progressively loading our lateral system is often neglected.
One of the main functions of our frontal plane muscles is to create stiffness to absorb our the forces of landing. If we look at the level of this runner's hips, there is a noticeable difference between the height of her right and left hip. The runner in the above picture is displaying a moderate amount of right hip drop.
Some hip drop is normal. When our foot hits the ground and begins to deal with our bodyweight, some movement in the frontal plane will happen as a way of absorbing the landing. We want to recreate that task in the weight room.
Asymmetrically loaded carries are a great way to challenge a runner's frontal plane in a running specific manner. By loading one side more then the other, we are challenging the tendency for our body to compensate in the frontal plane. Try some of these out in your next weight room session!
Unilateral Farmer's Carry
Unilateral Farmer's March
Step Up with Unilateral Load