How Strong is Strong Enough to Run?

World class long distance runners are not built like sprinters.

But both are strong.

When they run, they seem light-footed, have a slight bounce in their step. Compare this to a runner who you can hear coming a hundred yards away because of how hard his feet hit the ground.

Runners who excel at their sport have, what I call, a strong “Suspension System”. And because of this, they minimize the risk of injury (they can’t eliminate it of course but can reduce the risk).

The Suspension System consists of muscle, connective tissue (fascia, tendons) and the joint surface (cartilage) of the ankle, knee, and hip.

When a muscle contracts, it produces a force within that muscle but the force spreads beyond the local attachments via the myofascial sling – fascial sheaths connecting muscles to each other as well as to tendons and bones.

A well developed biologic Suspension System is a tensegrity structure.

Tensegrity refers to the balanced tension among various members to create structural integrity. The tensegrity concept is used in architecture for bridges and buildings. The combined tension among cables and beams makes the structure remarkably strong yet lighter weight than steel beams.

Inadequate muscle strength creates an inadequate and imbalanced myofascial sling network and in turn, can overload the knee joint. For example, hip weakness is linked with knee pain.1)Boling, M. C., Padua, D. A., & Alexander Creighton, R. (2009). Concentric and eccentric torque of the hip musculature in individuals with and without patellofemoral pain. J Athl Train, 44(1), 7-13.

If your knee hurts, there’s no question that strengthening the quadriceps muscle helps – if you can do it. One of the challenges with knee pain is that it often interferes with the strengthening of muscle since the force required to fatigue the muscle is often greater than what the knee joint can withstand.

But, the knee serves at the pleasure of the hip and foot (and you can argue that the trunk is in there too). You have to strengthen the entire chain for long-term success.

The next time you go for a run, check your “springiness”. If you find yourself lacking a bit of it, it likely means that some part of your Suspension System needs attention.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

PS – If you’re interested in my books, go here. To work with my colleague Laurie Kertz Kelly, go here. To work with me, go here.

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References   [ + ]

1. Boling, M. C., Padua, D. A., & Alexander Creighton, R. (2009). Concentric and eccentric torque of the hip musculature in individuals with and without patellofemoral pain. J Athl Train, 44(1), 7-13.