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Eccentric exercises to improve running performance

Work on the eccentric movement to increase power and reduce your risk for injuries

Most runners aren’t interested in spending hours every week in the gym, and for good reason — we’ve got a lot of running to do! For this reason, we need strength training programs that provide maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time possible. Eccentric exercises are the perfect solution, helping to improve your strength, durability and even flexibility to make you a more powerful and injury-proof athlete.

Strengthen these muscles to avoid leg fatigue

What is eccentric training?

Eccentric exercises focus on the part of the movement when you’re lengthening your muscle, like when you’re lowering the dumbbell during a bicep curl. When you’re running, your quads and hamstrings both go through eccentric movements to control your stride and produce power to push and pull your body forward. Developing strength during an eccentric contraction of these muscles will prevent you from over-striding, which will ultimately help you run faster and prevent injuries.

Not sure where to start? Add these five exercises into your training program to start seeing the benefits of eccentric training:

Rear foot elevated split squat

This is a great exercise to train your quad through an eccentric contraction as you lower yourself toward the ground, and is a great progression of a standard squat.

  1. Place your target foot forward and put your rear foot behind you on an elevated surface, like a chair or bench.
  2. Keeping your torso upright and your front foot entirely on the ground, bend your front knee and slowly lower your body to the ground, making sure your knee doesn’t collapse inward as you lower.
  3. Press through your entire foot and squeeze your glutes to push your body back up to the standing position. Do 8-12 repetitions on each leg, and one dumbbell in each hand to make it more challenging.

Step-up and over

All you need to perform this exercise is a low step or a curb.

  1. Place your target foot on the step and press downward, driving your knee up into the air as if you’re doing a regular step-up.
  2. Continue bringing your leg all the way through, slowly lowering your foot down to the floor in front of you.
  3. Gently tap your heel on the ground, before reversing the movement until you’re back in the starting position.

Reverse lunge and Romanian Dumbbell Combo

This combines a lunge and a single-leg deadlift to work on the eccentric movement of both the quad and the hamstring.

  1. With your target foot in front of you, step back with your other foot, lowering your back knee toward the ground in a reverse lunge.
  2. Push with your front foot, driving your back knee forward so you’re in a standing march position.
  3. Instead of returning to the reverse lunge position, extend your back leg out behind you, keeping your torso straight as your lower your chest toward the floor until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  4. Return to the marching position, then lower back down to the reverse lunge position and repeat the whole movement again. Repeat 8 to 12 times on each leg.

Single-leg bridge hamstring curl

This exercise strengthens your hamstrings through both the eccentric and concentric parts of the movement.

  1. Lay on your back with a slider or piece of paper under your heel.
  2. Starting in a single-leg bridge position, slowly slide your heel until your leg is straight.
  3. If you’re able, squeeze your hamstring and glute and slide your heel back up until you’ve returned to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times on each leg.
  4. To make this easier, use two sliders and do both legs at the same time.

Nordic hamstring extensions

Want to run faster? Strengthen your glutes

For this exercise, you’ll need something to anchor your feet and a pad to place under your knees.

  1. Stand on your knees with your torso straight and your feet anchored (a friend to hold onto your ankles is a great way to anchor yourself).
  2. Slowly start lowering your torso toward the ground, being careful not to break at your hips.
  3. When you get to the point where you can no longer control the movement, allow yourself to drop toward the ground, using your hands to break your fall.
  4. Return to the starting position, and repeat 8 to 10 times.