6 rules of basic functional training for runners

Implement these 6 basic training rules in your program to see big improvements in your PB and reduce your risk of injury.

  1. Don’t swing on Swiss balls or bosu

Balancing “functional core exercise” at Swiss Balls was a stupid trend that only really benefited circus trainers who could balance on balls to get people’s attention and then sell them basic training programs. The truth is that for runners this is totally unnecessary. When designing a functional training program, the coaches’ job is to determine if you need what are known as lean or right reflexes.

Tilt reflections are used when moving across an unstable surface. So if your sport requires you to move across an unstable, moving surface (like the sidewalks at an airport or standing on a Swiss ball). As you can see, running doesn’t use these kinds of reflexes, so while balancing on a ball may seem great, it’s a complete waste of time.

On the other hand, straightened reflections occur when you move across a stable surface, such as when running on the road. Therefore, all basic training must take place on a stable surface for optimal transfer and results in your sport!

  1. Maintaining your center of gravity on your base of support

Running requires what is known as dynamic posture, which means the ability to keep your center of gravity on your base of support while moving. Not doing it while moving (walking or running) is commonly seen in falls in the elderly and is just one of the reasons you need to make sure your core training doesn’t simply involve static plank-type exercises.

If a runner fails to keep his center of gravity over his base of support, his risk of injury greatly increases.

  1. Generalized motor program compatibility with runners

The most functional exercises for any sport use movements that are deeply rooted in sport. For runners, the best core exercises are those that rely on 4 core muscle subsystems that work in a coordinated fashion to produce locomotion (running or walking). These 4 subsystems are;

  1. Deep Longitudinal Sling System
  2. Posterior oblique sling system
  3. Anterior oblique sling system
  4. Side sling system

  1. Open / closed chain compatibility

If you push against an object that you cannot move, such as a chin up, it is a closed chain exercise. If you can pull something towards you and overcome resistance, the chain is open. Therefore, running is a closed chain activity.

This is very important for runners because muscle recruitment and joint movement is a specific task, so your selection of basic exercises to improve your run must be equally specific to achieve the functional result you want.

  1. Improve relevant biomotor skills

Every exercise you do in your training program has biomotor skills (these are strength, agility, power, endurance, flexibility, coordination, balance, and speed). An exercise is more functional when the biomotor profile is closely correlated with the weakness in the runner’s body or when it is more like the task for which he is training.

For example, when considering running, it is important to train the core through the 4 muscular subsystems discussed in point 3.


If you are looking to train a weakness, then the biomotor skills of interest to the long-distance runner relative to basic training are.

Enough FORCE in order to prevent and control rotation, flexion and extension.

Well ENDURANCE to allow the core muscles to perform their function effectively over a long period of time.

  1. Isolation to integration

Believe it or not, running has been plagued by the bodybuilding industry for years! Runners are convinced that to get stronger they must isolate their muscles to make them bigger or stronger.

It is important for runners not to lose sight of the fact that the body knows the movement, not the muscles. Bodybuilders train with the specific goal of enlarging a certain muscle, which is good exercise for them. However, for runners this is not the case, Always remember the muscle subsystems at play when training your core for running.

There are times when isolation exercises can be beneficial for runners; These are the types of exercises you should do during the stabilization phase of core training to ensure that all core muscles are strong and “awake.” You must remember that to achieve optimal results with an isolation exercise, adequate time must be spent training the muscles to contribute to a functional movement pattern, and in terms of running this means integrating the muscle into one of the 4 muscle subsystems.

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