The 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon ballot has been announced so if you’re lucky enough to have got a place you’ll be no doubt be, at least be thinking about, knuckling down to training. Sorting out your running plan is one thing, but have you considered what strength training you should be doing to prevent runners knee, amongst other things?
With many marathon trainees plagued by injury before they even get to the start line, we thought it might be a good time to re-visit our favourite exercise to prevent and remedy runners knee: the Poliquin step-up!
The Poliquin step-up strengthens the VMO (vastus medialis oblique): the tear drop shaped muscle above the knee on the inside of the quad. This is the muscle that works to extend the knee and protects it upon contact with the ground.
Runners knee is more often than not caused by an imbalance in the quadricep muscles: most commonly when the vastus lateralis, on the outside of the quad, is too strong in comparison to the VMO. This imbalance leads to the patella, or kneecap, tracking getting pulled out of line, which results in pain. Ultimately, physiotherapy may be needed to overcome the pain you are suffering from.
Our primary recommendation in these cases is to do some soft tissue work, such as foam rolling, to relieve tightness in the quadriceps muscles. Following this you should try to follow a structurally balanced training program which focuses on strengthening your VMO and evens out muscular imbalances, ensuring you regain pain-free function of your knee.
The Poliquin step-up is our top exercise to prevent runners knee and should be included in your training programme as it directly targets the VMO muscle.
– Start with one foot on a step with your heel elevated as high as possible (we recommend a bumper plate under the heel).
– Keeping your hips square, lower the heel of the other foot down in line with the toe of the elevated foot.
– Since this exercise has a very short range of movement we recommend doing 20 reps each side to get an adequate time under tension.
As an added bonus, the Poliquin step-up requires the gluteus medius to act as a stabilizer to the movement. A weak gluteus medius is commonly contributed to both knee and lower back pain so you will also be working to combat this!
We can’t stress enough how effective this exercise is to prevent runners knee and to build a strong VMO. Used as part of a well thought out and structured strength programme the Poliquin step-up exercise will ensure far greater sporting potential and greatly reduces the risk of injuries in the future, making it a powerful exercise for us all.
The progression from the Poliquin Step-Up is the Peterson step-up, which is a more advanced version of the movement, which still acts to prevent runners knee. View our exercise video HERE.