Mas­ter this lower-body ti­tan to get faster and in­jury-proof your knees

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Try the Bul­gar­ian split squat chal­lenge

Physio James Moore, direc­tor of sport and ex­er­cise medicine at the cut­ting-edge Cen­tre for Health and Hu­man Per­for­mance in Lon­don, has a sim­ple test for any run­ners who come to him for ad­vice – whether they’re a for­mer world cham­pion or a be­gin­ner look­ing to com­plete a 5K. What is it? Well, be­fore we get to that, Moore ex­plains why. ‘Most peo­ple don’t have the bal­ance or sta­bil­ity to run with­out se­ri­ous po­ten­tial for in­jury. This test lets me as­sess where they are – and whether they’re ready to run.’

So your chal­lenge for this month will get you ready to run, and it’s this: ten reps of the Bul­gar­ian split squat fol­lowed by a ten-sec­ond iso­met­ric hold at the bot­tom po­si­tion. And then you’ll go straight back into the squats. ‘If you’re able to do three sets of ten and three holds on one side and then the other, back to back – with good form – then you’re ready to run,’ says Moore. Sound easy? Pre­pare to be sur­prised.


Start in the clas­sic Bul­gar­ian split squat po­si­tion (pic­tured on the op­po­site page) with one foot be­hind you, rest­ing the in­step or toes on a bench set at roughly knee height, and your front foot po­si­tioned so that your shin stays as close to ver­ti­cal as pos­si­ble. Squat down un­til your front thigh is hor­i­zon­tal, then come back up. Do ten reps. On the tenth, hold in the bot­tom po­si­tion for ten sec­onds. Go straight into the next set. Once you’ve reached fail­ure on one side, switch to the other with no rest. Don’t be tempted to put all your weight on your back leg – it’ll make things worse later.


Two key moves will build strength for the split squat chal­lenge. Add both to your warm-up ev­ery time you hit the gym.


SETS REPS Stand with your feet shoul­der-width apart. Keep­ing your back straight, squat down un­til your thighs are at least par­al­lel to the floor. Put your arms out for bal­ance if nec­es­sary.


SETS REPS Do th­ese weighted or un­weighted, depend­ing on your ex­pe­ri­ence. Take a big step for­ward into a lunge, let­ting your rear knee brush against the floor. Stand back up and re­peat on the other leg.


Not ready to take on the full chal­lenge? Try do­ing it on al­ter­nate sides, which helps you work up to it by giv­ing your aching mus­cles a rest be­tween iso-holds. Here’s your four-week plan

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