If you only have time for one “extra” in your routine, this is your pick. Bold claim, I know, but I’m good at reading science and Will is even better and over the past few years, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time reviewing literature on what makes the perfect runner. Sure, you have to have some genetic predisposition and big lungs, but you also have to have a stable foot and hip/knee drive. The exercise that comes up over and over again to facilitate the development of the best stride possible for each runner are step-ups. Anecdotally, when I do my step-ups regularly, my form is significantly better. When I don’t, it’s right back to shuffle city.
Earlier this fall, Will built us a step-up box (you can buy them too, but they are surprisingly expensive). Ours is 18″ but anything between 12 and 20 inches should do the trick. If you want an even cheaper version, try using 2 or 3 stairs. Just be careful when you’re coming back down not to catch your foot.
As you can see from the pictures above, I still need work. In one picture, I’m looking down at my foot when I should be looking ahead. In the bottom picture, I’m collapsing towards my loaded foot. With continued lifting and drills, however, this should improve.
How do you incorporate step-ups into your life? Start with 5 on a side (so 10 total per set) with a goal of 3 sets. Eventually you want to get up to 10 on a side.These are best done after your harder runs; how else will you learn to improve form when you’re tired?! I generally do these three times a week with the rest of my leg work.
Later in the week, I’ll share my 20 minute leg and 20 minute arm workouts that really can fit in your day and are runner-specific. No future in Cross Fit with these routines, but done regularly, they’ll improve form and help you in the latter stages of runs and races.