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Training & advice

Mitchell Phillips of Stride UK: Walking lunges - one of the best exercises in the world?

It seems that the old school way to improve your running is to run more. Is it of any coincidence that more and more runners are stepping into my sports injury clinic with overuse related injuries.  In this case, practice doesn?t always make perfect! When it comes to choosing the right exercises to strengthen your body for running, it?s important to choose running drills that are functional.

What is functional you may ask?

Functional training is a specific exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed for a particular purpose. Asking around what functional exercises people do to improve their own running technique, most suggest the squat. The squat is a great ?compound? exercise that strengthens all major muscle groups for running, but is it as functional as we think?? Performing squats may be great for increasing strength, but running requires a massive amount of stabilisation using one leg at a time. Your core must be trained to be able to support this series of alternative hops from one leg to the other (running!).

The lunge therefore is probably the best exercise to functionally strengthen your body. They simulate the process of running but in a much slower, controlled and exaggerated way. 

Take a big step out in front of you, allow time for your body to settle. (do not bounce down into the lunge, ballistic movement can cause you injury). When settled, lower your body down until a 90 degree angle has been achieved in your front leg. Now it?s common at this time to complete the lunge by returning back to the same spot you started. This is where functionality goes completely out of the window. We don?t take a step back when we run, so why would we take a step back when we lunge? 

From the time you have come down to the 90 degree flexion front leg, shift your body weight onto the front leg and stand up bringing the back leg up to prepare for the next step forward. Give yourself plenty of room to do this exercise, find a hallway or gym space to allow at least 10 lunges forward. If feeling adventurous, try reversing the lunge by lunging backwards. This is a very challenging exercise that improves balance and core stability to a very good level. Try ten forward and ten back, just see which ones are more difficult. Repeat each set three times, add this to your regular training programme.

Mitchell is a running performance analyst at StrideUK, one of the UKs leading video gait analysis companies, based in Brighton. For more information, please visit