Strike A Pose

We’ve heard of exercise causing injury – but preventing injury? It’s not only possible, it’s extremely effective. And it’s infinitely preferable to patching up damage once it has already occurred.

Let us explain, using overpronation as a specific example. This excessive inward rolling of the foot and ankle as we run often contributes to leg injuries in runners, because it creates a chain of stresses up the body. We commonly try to compensate for it by wearing highly stable running shoes or even custom-made orthoses. But if we looked at the cause, we’d often find that strengthening and flexibility exercises could have an equally profound effect.

A corrective programme of exercises can have a dramatic effect on gait. It strengthens weak supporting muscles, corrects imbalanced muscle tightness and improves posture, all of which frees the lower body to work as it was designed to. No one would argue that a conditioning programme should overshadow correct shoe choice or properly prescribed orthoses; rather, they go side by side, as Saj Afzal, podiatrist to UK Athletics, explains:

“Orthoses improve mechanical efficiency, and often provide a dramatically successful route out of injury. But the instabilities that have developed over the years still need to be addressed. The correct prescription of exercise will ensure that the legs and core muscles become stronger, more stable and evenly balanced. This will add greatly to the effect of the orthoses, and to improved rehabilitation.”

Many people are surprised to discover that knee and lower-leg injuries frequently originate from the abdomen, hips and pelvis, rather than stemming from the feet and ankles. They shouldn’t be surprised, as research confirms that strength in the deep abdominal wall is central to stable and effective running.

If the deep muscles of the core – primarily the transversus abdominus and internal oblique – are weak or do not function properly, then they are unable to provide a solid foundation for the legs to work off. (This means a lack of stability, increased strain on the joints and muscles of the lower extremities, and a higher risk of injury.) The core also has an effect on the movement of the leg that isn’t in contact with the ground. If it is not strong, the counter-rotation of the pelvis and the subsequent leg drive is compromised.

In cases of excess pronation, core instability is commonly twinned with anterior pelvic tilt, which is visible as an excessive arch in the lower back. This altered position of the pelvis internally rotates the femur, which leads to the knee dropping inwards during running, causing the runner, at the end of the chain, to overpronate to compensate.

As you can imagine, improved postural alignment and muscle balance at the pelvis (reducing the internal rotation of the femur) can significantly reduce overpronation and injury and also improves performance. And it’s easy to find out whether you need it. Outlined below is a test and a specific exercise programme to correct your pelvic alignment, improve abdominal function and reduce overpronation.

Assessing your Lumbar Curve – The Wall Standing Test

Stand with your heels, pelvis, upper back and head against a wall. Slide your hand into the gap between your lower back and the wall. If you have a normal lumbar curve, you will only just be able to fit your hand into the gap. If you have excessive lumbar curvature (lordosis), your hand, wrist and forearm will be able to fit through the gap. This is commonly associated with overpronation, and to reduce it, you should follow the exercise below.

For Underpronators

If you have a flat lumbar spine, commonly associated with underpronation, you will need to stretch your hamstrings and glutes and strengthen your lats, psoas, quadriceps and lumbar erectors.

What to do

Improving your core stability has two components; we've put the exercises on separate pages:

Contact

For more details of corrective exercise programming and courses, or to find a corrective exercise specialist in your area, go to www.chekinstitute.com