The Fix

Strength from the Ground Up

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Mary­lene Vester­gom Mary­lene Vester­gom is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Cana­dian Run­ning. She lives and runs in Toronto.

As the com­pany ath­letic ther­a­pist for the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada, Paul Papout­sakis knows all too well the im­por­tance these dancers place on the strength of their feet and an­kles. “These ath­letes jump and turn, of­ten en pointe where bal­ance, foot and an­kle strength are key to their mo­bil­ity and, most im­por­tantly, to the re­duc­tion and risk of an­kle and foot in­juries.”

So what does this have to do with run­ning? Ap­pre­ci­at­ing what a dancer does with their feet can only help run­ners un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the an­kle and foot. Those small mus­cles cross­ing the an­kle joints are re­quired to reach op­ti­mal per­for­mance in both dis­ci­plines. For some run­ners, train­ing fo­cuses on a top-down ap­proach. One the­ory sug­gests that in­creas­ing the mus­cu­lar strength around the hip and core should help re­duce ex­ter­nal move­ment at the knee and an­kle level.

How­ever, Dr. Benno M. Nigg, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of biome­chan­ics at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, has re­cently sub­mit­ted his find­ings to the Jour­nal of Sport Sci­ence that chal­lenges this the­ory with the sug­ges­tion that a bot­tom-up ap­proach, fo­cus­ing on in­creas­ing the strength of the small mus­cles cross­ing the an­kle joint, should re­duce move­ment and load­ing at the an­kle, knee and hip joints.

“In run­ning you ba­si­cally move in one plane, the sagit­tal plane, that plays a ma­jor role in run­ning for­ward,” says Nigg. “You don’t re­ally do any side shuff ling – so you’re not re­ally train­ing a lot of the mus­cles that you have.”

Mov­ing away from the top-down to a bot­tom-up ap­proach in the pre­ven­tion of in­juries rep­re­sents a par­a­digm shift. Ev­ery­thing starts with the base. “We think that an­kle strength is a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the re­duc­tion of in­juries,” says Nigg. “If you have weak an­kle joints, you’re un­sta­ble at the base. If you’re un­sta­ble at the base, that has an ef­fect up the body, and we have some ev­i­dence that this con­tributes to in­juries.”

The an­kle has two ma­jor mus­cles, the calf mus­cle, or the tri­cep surae, and the tib­ialis an­te­rior in the front. In ad­di­tion to those, it has nine other smaller mus­cles. If the small mus­cles can do the sta­bi­liz­ing work, then the big mus­cles don’t need to, and the load­ing of the struc­tures in the hu­man leg is much lower.

Nigg thinks run­ners should start think­ing lat­er­ally. “Train the foot and an­kle joints in all di­rec­tions. Con­sider you’re build­ing a sky­scraper and you need to re­in­force its sta­bil­ity. Where do you start? The bot­tom.”

“As much as you can, try to spend time walk­ing bare­foot, on your toes and heels and in­clude bal­ance train­ing so you can tar­get and build strength in the in­trin­sic foot mus­cles. These tiny mus­cles are un­der­worked when you wear shoes. A pro­gram to main­tain bal­ance and strength is im­por­tant at all ages,” says Papout­sakis. As for the ath­letes at the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada, “they’re ac­ti­vat­ing their foot and lower leg mus­cu­la­ture con­tin­u­ously in or­der to pre­pare for the rig­ors of their daily work­out.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.