"Range of Motion & Strength for the Outdoor Athlete"
By Brendan Finneran, Dogma Athletica Personal Trainer and USA Cycling Coach
In the Vail Valley, we generate momentum for our summer activities in June. Athletes look forward to translating the months of indoor training to increased performance outdoors now that the weather is nicer. For summer’s athletic pursuits, the focus is endurance training thanks to an increase in daylight hours and hopefully, more time away from work. Endurance training requires more from the body’s aerobic engine and workout efforts rely heavily on stamina. Whether your sport is cycling, running, swimming, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing or a mix of all of these, you can gain an advantage by increasing range of motion and functional strength. A broad scope in your approach to endurance training will keep you engaged, challenged and open to new effective methods this summer.
“Range of motion” is a term applied to an exercise that is aimed at improving movement in a specific joint. For outdoor athletes, the focus is tying together multi-muscle and multi-joint movements to propel our bodies against gravity or an outside force, i.e. running up Berry Creek Trail or paddling on the Eagle River. If you want to run faster or paddle harder this summer – and keep your body free from injury – I have a simple tip: Keep your training balanced by incorporating strength work and yoga to your weekly endurance regimen.
A regular yoga practice and strength work in the gym keep your joints safe by making new adaptations to effective movement patterns. Performing a squat is one example of an effective movement pattern. In doing so, you are increasing the range of motion in you lower body, specifically the hip, knee and ankle joints. Let’s break down this example further.
For a beginner, no weight is needed to make the squat an effective exercise. First, the focus must be on correct form with hips tracking back and down over the heels, keeping the patella from passing in front of the toes. Putting mental energy behind the proper mechanics of the exercise while performing it actually enhances the metabolic benefits of the motion. Additionally, bringing attention to the depth of the squat will maximize the length of muscles.
If the practitioner can lower down to a 70-degree angle without weight and they repeat the same squatting motion regularly for a few weeks, they will surely begin to increase the depth of the squat, working down to an 80-degree then a 90-degree angle. What happens over time is that the body is able to move the same weight a greater distance both eccentrically (down away from the center) and concentrically (standing back up). It requires more work from the body to achieve a greater angle, thereby increasing the metabolic stimulus, which equates to burning more calories. So performing the same exercise, but making gradual stress increases over time, will fetch bigger dividends.
A study was performed on ten individuals focusing on squat depth and vertical leap. The study found that if there was an increased depth of the squat there was an increase in vertical leap height. The athletes who performed partial squats had no increase in leap height and they also experienced patella pain. Whereas the participants who performed the full depth of the squat had a heighten leap and experienced no patella knee pain.
Performing squats is just one example of how gym work can translate into better performance in outdoor activities. Think about heading out for a trail run and being able to lengthen your stride while applying more force against the ground to increase your average running speed. Of course, each athlete will have different strengths. I recommend joining a strength-focused group class for a total body workout or trying a one-on-one session with a trainer to identify weaknesses that would benefit from strength training. Dogma Athletica has created a fun summer program called Breakfast Club Boot Camp that meets every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 6-7 a.m. Each class is different to stimulate different muscle patterns and keep you feeling challenged.
Yoga classes are another great way for athletes to lengthen taxed muscles from long runs or miles on the bike. Dogma has many class options geared specifically toward athletes who are looking to enhance their summer endurance training.
Happy trails (and rivers) this summer! For more information on programming, call (970) 688-4433.