Read some of the most recent blog articles by Joseph Coyne which feature content on functional movement, training, nutrition and tips and techniques to improve your athletic performance.

The Best Muscles To Strengthen For Running – FHL & Tibialis Anterior

The next accessory muscle group to be aware of in the lower extremity is tibialis anterior. Tibialis anterior is a dorsiflexor of the ankle meaning it pulls your toes towards your knees (along with the extensor group). Increased speed and force of dorsiflexion will shorten the lever arm of the recovering leg during sprinting. This means that the quicker the ankle can go into dorsiflexion, the quicker the leg can get through into the next stride. This will obviously increase stride frequency. This dorsiflexion ability is even more important if athletes have to run on uneven surfaces like sand or grass.  Machine dorsiflexion exercises are the best way of training this function but you can also use a low cable.     From an injury point of view, if you have disfunction (whether it be strength or poor soft tissue) with tibialis anterior you are more at risk of chronic ankle sprains and shin splints which are all common conditions in runners. It can also lead to hyperpronation symptoms and when you have impaired dorsiflexion function, the lumbar spine has to go through more range of motion during each recovery phase of your stride as described here. (link to FMS)   The last lower extremity muscle that we really want to be aware of is the flexor hallucis longus (FHL). This muscle has a vital role to play in proprioception of the foot, propulsion off the ground and making sure too much pronation does not occur when the foot makes contact with the ground. If these properties are impaired during the stance phase, it will prolong the stance phase... read more

The Best Muscles To Strengthen For Running – Calves

Getting you running quick means getting you strong in all the right muscle groups. For those that have missed it, I have already detailed why lifting weights will not make you slow and the importance of strengthening the hamstrings as knee flexors, the hamstrings as hip extensors and the quadriceps. Now it is time to talk about some of the other muscle groups that will really get you rocketing along; whether you are running a marathon or 100m sprint. The triceps surae is basically the combination of the two heads of the gastrocnemius and the soleus or in non-anatomy talk, the calf! These muscles are responsible for plantarflexion at the ankle and provide vital propulsive forces at the end of the stance phase (remember running can be divided into three basic phases: stance phase or how long you spend on the ground, stride length and stride frequency). The more force the triceps surae can exert on the ground, the greater the ground reaction force is generated. This means you travel further with each stride that of course equals an increase in your stride length and running speed. Triceps surae function is also an important part of the triple extension movement, which is why Olympic lifts are so popular amongst strength & conditioning circles.   The triceps surae also plays a role in injury prevention of the both the ankle and knee. At the ankle it obviously acts on the Achilles tendon and if your strength in the triceps surae is poor or you have a lot of soft tissue problems in that muscle group, you are going to be... read more

The Best Muscles To Strength For Running – Quadriceps

The quadriceps group (as the latin translation suggests) is made up of four muscle heads: vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris. These muscles primarily extend the knee while the rectus femoris also flexes the hip, which makes it a doubly important muscle for running. If we remember that running speed and endurance is all about improving the three main components of locomotion: stance phase, stride frequency and stride length. The quadriceps will especially help with the stance phase. Rectus femoris (with the help of the other hip flexors and the lower abdominals) will also aid in improving stride frequency by bringing the leg into triple flexion more rapidly. The reason an increase in strength in the quadriceps will help so much with the stance phase is that the quadriceps will now be able to exert more force on the ground with each foot contact. This means the runner will experience greater ground reaction forces and it will propel them forward at a greater pace. This will also indirectly increase stride length, as now you are moving further with each foot contact. Increased strength in the quadriceps will also enable a better ability to handle eccentric loading forces that again means that you will spend less amount of time of in the stance phase. This is very similar to the knee flexors role in the stance phase. Probably the most important muscle of the quadriceps group that runners need to strengthen is the Vastus Medialis. There are two reasons: a) it is normally underdeveloped compared to the other quadriceps due to normal locomotion patterns and the predominant... read more

The Best Muscles To Strengthen For Running – Hamstrings As Hip Extensors

The portion of the hamstrings that extend the hips are a important part of propelling the body forward during locomotion. This extension of the hips is vital to almost every running based sport and it is why most good strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers use exercises that involve triple extension (extension of hip, knee and ankle). This muscle group is predominately made of slow twitch muscle fibers that again influences the amount of repetitions you should use to train them with. The main aspect of running that improving strength in the hip extensors will benefit is your stride length. It does this in two ways. The first is by increasing the force the hip and the leg applies to the ground each stride. This increase in force gives a larger ground reaction force to the body and results in greater speed and greater distance travelled per stride. As you can reason, improvements in hip extensor strength are vital for acceleration and speed. This aspect of running is not only important for sprinters and other team sports athletes but also long distance runners or marathoners too as they change pace to distance themselves from a competitor or have to outsprint another runner at the finish line.   The second way it increases stride length is that it decreases inhibitory measures the body uses to protect the hamstring during running. If the hip extensor portion of the hamstrings is weak, the brain will send inhibitory signals to the legs preventing them from entering a range that might cause a hamstring pull for their current level of strength. When you become... read more

The Best Muscles To Strengthen For Running – Hamstrings As Knee Flexors

The hamstrings as a knee flexor are made up of predominately fast twitch fibers that flex the knee (e.g. bring the heel closer to the bottom). This influences the amount of repetitions you should use to train them with. This part of the hamstring also assists in lateral-medial and anterior-posterior stabilization of the knee. This means they are very important anatomically to strengthen to prevent injuries especially Medial Collateral Ligament, Anterior Cruciate Ligament and meniscus injuries. In terms of what strengthening the knee flexors will do for your running, it assists in two of the three aspects: stride rate and stance phase. Stride rate: As your knee flexors become stronger, they can flex the knee more rapidly after the stance phase or foot strike. This decreases the lever arm of trailing leg and allows the trailing leg to be brought forward faster ready for the next foot strike. By doing this, it will increase stride frequency as now it takes less time for the leg to be brought forward ready for the next foot strike because a) the lever arm is shorter and b) the hamstring is stronger so it can more forcibly flex the knee. Stance phase: Because the knee flexors aid so much in the stabilization of the knee, research shows this aids biomechanics in the stance phase. The biggest reason increased strength (and especially eccentric) strength in the knee flexors helps is that it takes less time for the leg to stabilize itself when it hits the ground so that foot can push off faster and the next leg cycle can begin. This means you spend... read more

Ivan Abadjiev & Bulgarian Weightlifting

At the 2011 Eleiko Strength Summit in Rhode Island, I had the pleasure of listening to the former Bulgarian & Turkish weightlifting coach, Ivan Adadjiev. Abadjiev is quite famous in weightlifting circles and somewhat revolutionized the sport of weightlifting (and training athletes in general) with a radically different approach to training. As a lifter himself, he won a silver medal in weightlifting at the 1957 World Championships. After finishing his athletic career, Abadjiev started training young weightlifters. At the time, Bulgaria was still basically a satellite country for the Soviet Union and as such followed their training regimes. To cut a long story short, Abadjiev did not really share the same training philosophy as the Russians who used a wide variety of exercises and spent most of their training time lifting weights at 85% of their maximum. He decided that his lifters would only focus on the competition lifts (clean & jerk and snatch) along with front squat and back squat. He also decreed that his lifters should spend most of their time lifting at or above 95% of their maximum. Not only this but he demanded a much higher workload from his athletes. For instance in Russian training manuals that were current at the time Abadjiev was coaching, it states that an experienced lifter at a certain weight should not lift over 1000 tonne per calendar year. At the seminar, he revealed a Bulgarian weightlifter’s training log who was in the same weight class where the weight lifted in that particular day was 66 tonne – meaning the lifter would have lifted over 1000 tonne in 15 training... read more

The Functional Movement Screen

In essence, the Functional Movement Screen is a series of seven movement patterns that require some form of balance, stability or mobility. It is massively popular in the United States at the moment (most NFL teams use the FMS in their training programs) and it is a great method of getting a good idea of where you are at in terms of your injury risk; whether you are an athlete or not.   Now people can get confused with the actual purpose of the FMS and it is not designed to be used to predict athletic performance (which recent studies concur on).   For instance, just because you score less on the FMS than another athlete does not make you a worse athlete in your chosen sport.   What it is designed to do however is to give you an idea of the quality of movement patterns and an indication of injury risk based on biomechanics. Now before I go further, I must mention that biomechanics are only one factor that contributes to your injury risk. For instance, some researchers have found that back pain is almost 60% genetic so if your parents had back pain, sorry but you are likely to have it too. Other proven factors include chemical makeup of individuals (i.e. an imbalance of fatty acids, low cellular pH), proprioception and neuromuscular control at joints, gender, hormonal levels, previous injury history, previous activity levels and BMI (sometimes you just have to lose some weight to take the loads of the joints!). So although as health professionals we would love it if biomechanics were the be all and... read more

The Best Training Splits

A training split is basically what you train or what type of training you do on any given day of the week. For instance if you train your legs on Monday, back on Wednesday and Chest on Friday, that would be an example of a training split. In the never-ending quest to enhance our training results, athletes, fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders have experimented with a number of different training splits – some good, others terrible. Here are my favorite splits I use for athletic training, fat loss and rehabilitation that you are more than welcome to take or adapt for your own purposes.   Before I go further, there a few basic rules I have that you should know before designing a training split. The first is that simple things work best so don’t make it anymore complicated than need be. The second (and this one relates especially to athletes) is you should always train speed before strength and strength before endurance during the week. The third is that the upper body can usually handle more load than the legs because the muscle groups aren’t as large and will recover quicker. This means you can train them more often in your training split.   The fourth rule is that I do not to regularly pair two big compound movements in one session e.g. a bench press with a pull up. By avoiding this, it allows the trainee to concentrate more on the dominant exercise in the session. NB: Check out Bodybuiliding Split #1 to see how I have done this. The fifth is that you want to train antagonistic... read more