Posted by: pointlenana | May 2, 2016

Exercise of the Month: May 2016 – Running Man Variations

This one works the gluteus medius.  You can read in detail what this muscle does, but the easiest way to explain it is that it helps stabilize you while you are moving/standing on/supported by that leg.  If you couldn’t stabilize then your body would be lurching and twisting while you are running.  The glute med is a strong muscle that prevents that.  However, the body is pretty good at adapting so if your glute med isn’t working as it should, the stability comes from smaller muscles which aren’t as well-prepared to handle the forces – things like adductors, hip flexors, and a bunch of small muscles in the hip that you probably haven’t heard of (obdurator internus anyone?).  If the small muscles are doing most of that stabilization instead of the glute med, in addition to their day jobs, then after a while those smaller muscles tend to wear out and get injured.  Stretching and strengthening those smaller muscles might deal with the immediate symptom, but getting at the root cause – the weak glute – is necessary to deal with the problem for good.

If you’ve ended up at PT working on your glutes, you are probably familiar with the clamshell exercise (aka side-lying hip abduction as described in this article).  This can help get the glute med activating and make it stronger.  The trick, as my PT’s at RealRehab say, is to get it to do this while you are actually running.  You don’t really do that clamshell movement while you are running and it’s not guaranteed that what works doing one movement will carry over to a different movement.  The running man exercise also works the glute med, but in the context of a running motion – making it more likely that it will help when you are actually running.

Rather than having to explain the exercise – stand on one leg, go through an exaggerated running motion with the other –  I found a great video that shows the exercise.  About the only thing to add to the video is that when you come to the upright, non-supporting knee-bent pose, you want to come very upright and fire the glute max on the supporting leg.  That moment is the equivalent of the push-off when you are running, and you want to use the big strong glute to propel you forward.  Many people – meaning me – don’t fire that glute max and get good hip extension on the push off.  In addition to challenging the glute med to keep you stable, this exercise is a good chance to work on the glute max/hip extension as well.

As the guy in the video says, if you can’t do the clamshell well yet, you should start with that.  But once clamshells and resisted clamshells (e.g. with a theraband stretching between your thighs) are easy, then running man is a good way to transition to a functional movement.  Once running man is easy, then there are two variations to make things less stable so you have to work harder.

The first is a resisted form of running man.  Anchor one end of a resistance band to a door/heavy table leg/fence post and hold the other end in the hand above the supporting leg (e.g. if you are balancing on your right leg, hold it in your right hand).  If you have access to one of those cable weight machines in a gym, you can use that instead of a resistance band.  Stand far enough from the anchor that when you are in the upright pose the band is pulling you forward.  Then go through the running man exercise as shown in the video with the band hand moving forward and backwards against the resistance.  This will make it a little harder to balance and make you work harder to get in the upright position.

The second variation is very similar except that instead of having the resistance in front of you, it comes from the side.  Turn 90 degrees away from the anchor, with the supporting leg farthest from the anchor.  I usually hold the band in both hands at this point, so that the exercise stresses my glutes not my arm.  Then do running man.  The side resistance causes all kinds of problems – it’s trying to pull you over sideways, and it’s trying to twist you at the ends of the movement.  And while lots of muscles help with that, it’s the glute med that will handle most of it – if it’s active and strong enough.

I generally do 2 sets of 15 reps on each leg.

A good progression would be:

  • clamshells with no resistance
  • clamshells with resistance (a band)
  • running man with no resistance
  • running man with front and side resistance (two exercise, 2×15 reps on each leg of each exercise)
  • increase the resistance – stiffer band or increase weight on the the cable machine.

By now I’ve worked up to the resisted running man – I skip the other stuff and go straight to the front- and side-resisted exercises.



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