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3. Essential Activation Drills

Blog 3: 10 Essential Activation Drills for Runners

Our previous post focussed on mobility drills for runners. Activation of the right muscle groups is the other side of the same coin; you shouldn’t have mobility without activation and stability. If you choose to use the mobility drills in our previous post as part of a warm up then it is essential that you follow that up with activation to make sure you’re ready for the physical demands placed on your body during a run.

Warm ups aren’t anything new but sometimes it’s difficult to know what you should be doing as part of your pre-run routine. What can get missed occasionally is the specificity of your warm up. It needs to be targeted towards the muscle groups you’re going to be using. There are many benefits of warming up before competition or training.

Each warm should be designed to prepare your body and mind for the activity you are about to take part in. If used appropriately it should save you having to wait for that ‘second wind’ to kick in at the start of a training run or race, improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury. A model commonly used for warm ups is the RAMP method.

The sequence of each component of the RAMP warm up can be changed and adapted if needed or even cycled through the process as part of your warm up routine. That way once your tissue temperature increases you can revisit mobility and activation as your tissues will be more extensible and have increased range available.

Key points to follow when you warm up:

  • Keep stretches dynamic. Static stretches could inhibit the responsiveness of your muscles so keep to a maximum of a 2 second hold on any stretch
  • Keep the duration of your warm up to 10-15min
  • Consider the environment you warm up in. If the outdoor conditions are poor warm up inside so you can work through your routine properly
  • Make it specific to your session – higher intensity running needs a higher intensity warm up

Here is a selection of essential activation drills for you to use before running. Done well by the time you’ve completed the following drills you should have increased your heart rate, tissue temperature and tissue extensibility and be ready to run! The drills are designed to be suitable for most runners. If you have concerns about the suitability of them due to pain or injury make sure you seek appropriate advice from a suitably qualified professional before completing them.


VIDEO: Activation drills for runners


As in the previous post here are some coaching cues for each of the drills in the video. The time that they feature is in brackets in case you need to see them again.

1.     Standing hip activation at wall (0:13)

Standing as tall as you can push out with your non-standing leg into a wall/support. Keep both hips facing forward and control your breathing throughout. Hold for 5 controlled breaths and complete two efforts on each side.


2.     Wall climber (0:22)

Position yourself so you are leaning at about a 45° angle. Make sure your shoulders; hips, knees and ankles are all in line. Stride one leg forward so the hip, knee and ankle f your non-standing leg are bent to 90°.  Stay as tall as you can on your standing leg lifting your heel on your standing leg as you stride forward.


3.     Clock face toe reach (0:40)

Standing on one leg reach one foot forwards, to the side and to the rear of your standing leg. Reach as far as you can with out putting weight through your non-standing leg. Repeat 3 rounds on each leg.


4.     Lateral lunge plus cross over reach and rotational reach (1:02)

Lunge to the side keeping your weight on your lunging leg. Add a cross over reach to your lunging leg and a rotational swing over your lunging leg. Complete 2 sets x 5 reps on each side.


5.     Walking SL RDL (1:25)

Start Position: Tall through your standing leg with your non standing leg flexed to 90° at the hip, knee and ankle. Hinge from the hip reaching your non-standing leg as far back as you can control before returning to the start position and step forward to swap legs. Complete 2×8 on each leg.


6.     3D Walking lunge series (1:55)

Lunge forward in series, alternating legs. Work through a series of each of the following on each side; reach forward at knee height, rotate over your lead leg with both hands, swing both hands overhead over your lead leg.

Ensure as you start each lunge your weight is through the back of your foot/heel and as you shift your weight forward load the middle and front of your foot as you step forward.


7.     Bunny Hops. Linear, lateral and rotational (2:15)

Keep your feet together and complete 10 hops of forward hops, lateral hops to the side and rotational hops.


Thanks for reading! Our next post will be an interview with James Hudson, Sports Nutritionist for the Gloucester rugby team. We’re going to talk to him about the best nutrition strategy when you’re training and most importantly your nutrition strategy for race day! If you have any questions for James feel free to contact us and we’ll add them to the interview!

If you have any questions about your running training, an injury or any of the information in this post feel free to contact us using the details below. The Cheltenham challenge offer is still active and we’d be happy to discuss any elements of your training with you.

Tel. 01452 595245




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During the next few months we’d love to welcome you to the Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic for a sports massage to help keep you on track during your training for the Cheltenham Challenge. Were based at Reebok Gym Glevum, Unit 12 Quadrant Distribution Centre, Waterwells Buisness Park,  Gloucester, GL2 2RN

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