Introduction to Strength Endurance Exercises

Introduction to Strength Endurance Exercises:
“A’s, B’s, C’s, Lunges and Happy Feet”

Strength endurance exercises, or running drills, are a combination of static and dynamic stretches as well as strengthening exercises. Running drills are designed to improve strength and flexibility of the quadricep, hamstring, gluteal and calf muscles, which are the primary muscles used when running and walking. The drills also work the stomach back area improving core muscle strength. 

Increased strength promotes an upright, relaxed posture in the shoulders and arms. Not all muscle groups have the same amount of strength and flexibility. By incorporating these drills into your fitness program, you will improve strength and flexibility in the weaker areas and in turn, become more balanced, coordinated, and improve your overall strength. 
 
Performing these drills with proper technique is very important. Emphasis is on an upright body posture and a wide range of motion while concentrating on the hips, knees and ankles. Encourage performing the drills slowly at first while improving stamina and developing a "feel" for proper technique.

 “A” Exercises

1. Stationary A’s 

(also known as Stationary High Knees or Knee-ups)

Intro Level

  • In a stationary position; stand up on your toes; eyes straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed; tuck elbows against the sides of your body; arms bent at 90 degrees; extend the hands out, palms facing down.
  • Raise one knee up to make contact with the hand directly above; alternate raising knees to make contact with the hand directly above. 
  • Repeat for 20 seconds. Note: There is no forward movement here. You are working on the spot, with the knees raising up and making contact with the palms of your hands. 
  • Initially, do the above exercise once for 3 workout sessions.

After 3 workout sessions, do this exercise TWICE (20 second repeats), with a short recovery, gently shaking the legs out between sets. After 3 sessions with two 20-second repeats, do this THREE times for 20 seconds, with a short recovery, gently shaking the legs out between sets. You may find this is all you’d like to do. However, if you are motivated and want a further challenge, try the advanced level described next.

Advanced

  • The key to the advanced exercise is to perform the exercise at a faster pace, which can be described as a bouncing rhythm. The goal is still to drive each knee into the palm of your extended hand, but now you are alternating legs at a faster pace.
  • When done correctly, you are bouncing from one side to the next.
  •  Complete this progression for 20 seconds, after you have finished the previous introductory level exercise.
  • Always begin with 3 sets of the introductory level above to warm up your body before you add 1 set of this Bouncing Rhythm. Do this once, for 3 sessions, before adding 2 sets of bouncing for 3 sessions, and finally adding 3 sessions of bouncing for the advanced avid runner. Please note beginners are not likely to progress past 2 sets.

2. Walking A’s 

(also known as Walking High Knees or Knee-ups)

Intro Level

  • Stand up on your toes; eyes straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed; tuck elbows against the sides of your body.
  • This time instead of being a stationary exercise as above, you will take tiny steps marching forward, on the toes, while raising the knees to 90 degrees to slightly higher than waist level.
  • As with Stationary A’s, the arms are bent at 90 degrees, however the palms now face each other, thumbs on top, pinky fingers pointing down. 
  • Utilize a wide running arm action, swinging the arms freely forward and back, elbows reaching behind, thumbs up to shoulder height in front. 
  • Slowly march forward alternating opposite arms with opposite legs. 
  • Repeat this action for about 20 seconds. Recover by walking back to your start position, and proceed to do the Intro Level of Skipping A’s, described below.

Advanced Level

Simply repeat the exercise described above for 20 seconds, but this time move arms and legs more strongly and briskly. You will notice the quicker action is more tiring and requires increased effort and strength. It is important to advance slowly. Always recover by slowly jogging back to your start position, and proceed to do the Advanced Level of Skipping A’s, described below.

3. Skipping A’s 
(also known as Skipping High Knees or Knee-ups)

Note: The technique for Skipping A’s is exactly as in Walking A’s above for both Intro Level and Advanced Level, but with the simple addition of a skip in your step as you raise the knee in conjunction with the swing of the opposite arm.

Intro Level

  • Stand up on your toes; eyes straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed; tuck elbows against the sides of your body; arms bent at 90 degrees; extend the hands out, palms facing down.
  • After completing the Introductory Level Walking A’s; Perform Skipping A’s as described for 20 seconds, at a comfortable slow pace, working on achieving a comfort zone with good technique. Always recover by slowly walking back to your starting position. Progress by doing the Introductory Level of Walking B’s, described after Running A’s.

Advanced Level

Progress from the Introductory Level by increasing the pace for 20 seconds when you’ve had success at the slower pace. Recover by slowly jogging back to your starting position. Progress by doing the Advanced Level of Running A’s described below.

4. Running A’s 
(also known as Running High Knees or Knee-ups)

Advanced Level Only

  • To be utilized in Run10KFaster programs only, after the progression of 20 seconds of each of the Walking A’s, followed by 20 seconds of the Skipping A’s, and finishing with 20 seconds of these Running A’s.
  •  The technique for Running A’s is exactly as described in both Walking A’s and Skipping A’s above, however there is no skip and the pace is fast.
  • Remember to stay up on the toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.
  • There is a “bouncing action” as the knees are driving up high while the opposite arm is driving forward. The arm action dictates the pace. The quicker the arms swing forward and back, the quicker the legs must respond with the high knee action to match the pace, just as it is when you run. Once again, do this for 20 seconds.

 

 “B” Exercises

1. Walking B’s

Intro Level

  • Stand up on your toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.
  • Imagine you have a large “barrel” placed in front of you, and you must step up and over that barrel. Begin with one leg, raising the knee with the opposite arm forward, and extending the leg as you step up and over that imaginary barrel, finishing the exercise by snapping the foot back down to the ground.
  • Repeat this action with the opposite leg and arm, thus moving slightly forward, keeping your body as upright as possible. (The best analogy is to picture a horse out in a field, impatiently pawing the ground, as he is about to break into a run.) 
  • Please be aware that this exercise may feel awkward at first, however it is excellent for balance, coordination and strength for both running and walking.
  • After you have completed the Intro Level of Skipping A’s, as described previously, do this for 20 seconds, at a slower pace, working on achieving a comfort zone with good over-the-barrel technique, and opposite arm/opposite leg action. 
  • Recover by slowly walking back to your start position, and then do the Introductory Level of Skipping B’s, described below.

Advanced Level

  • Do the same as described above, this time increase the pace of your arm and leg action? The faster the pace, the greater the effort. 
  • Do this for 20 seconds after you have completed the Advanced Level of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, and Running A’s, and only when you’ve had success at the slower pace. Remember to recover with a slow jog back to your starting position and stand up on your toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.

2. Skipping B’s

Intro Level

  • The exercise is the same as with Walking B’s:  Step up and over the imaginary barrel, the foot snapping back down toward the ground, “pawing the ground” like a horse in a pasture, but this time, add a skip as you raise your knee. It sounds more complicated than it is:  The skip gives you extra momentum to propel you through the exercise.
  • Do this exercise for 20 seconds, after you have completed the progression of Walking A’s, Skipping A’, Running A’s, and Walking B’s. Remember to recover in between with a slow jog back to your starting position and stand up on your toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.

Advanced Level

  • The exercise is the same as the introductory level, but this time increase the pace of your arm and leg action. The faster the pace, the greater the effort. 
  • Do this for 20 seconds after you have completed the Advanced Level of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, and only when you’ve had success at the slower pace. Remember to recover with a slow jog back to your starting position and stand up on your toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.

“C” Exercises
(Also known as “Butt – Kicks”)

Intro Level

  • Standing up on the toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.
  • Point your thighs directly down towards the ground, lean slightly forward from the waist and kick your heels up to make contact with your butt, keep knees close together. 
  • The focus is on a smooth, fluid movement with a strong swinging arm action to dictate the pace. 
  • As always, opposite arms move in conjunction with opposite legs. 
  • Moving only slightly forward, kick your heels up to make contact with your butt.
  • Once again, a 20 second increment is great to start with. Do this after you have completed the Intro level progression of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, and Skipping B’s, with a recovery in between each exercise of walking back to your starting position.

 
Advanced Level

  • The exercise is the same as the introductory level, but this time it is a faster motion with a “bouncing rhythm” by kicking your heels up at a much faster rate.
  • Make sure to kick your heels up to make contact with your bottom.
  • Do this for 20 seconds after you have completed the progression of Advanced Level of Walking A’s, Skipping A’, Running A’s, Walking B’s, and Skipping B’s, with a slow jog recovery back to your starting position in between each exercise and stand up on your toes, eyes are straight ahead, body posture is upright, tall and relaxed.

Lunges

This exercise utilizes a variety of different muscles and it is imperative that proper technique is used for this drill. It is especially good for strengthening and stretching hip flexors.

Introductory Level

  • Square shoulders, square hips and a nice shoulder width leg stance are key to performing this drill properly.
  • Stand tall, eyes forward, arms bent at 90 degrees. 
  • Lift the right knee and swing the right leg forward about 3 feet in front of the body, heel to toe action so that the right foot is firmly planted on the ground, right knee slightly bent, and back left leg fully extended with the left heel slightly raised. Check your stance and make sure you are stable. 
  • Make sure the front knee is not past your toes as this puts unnecessary strain on your knee.
  • Drop your back left knee down to the ground as the right knee bends to 90 degrees, once again adjusting your position so that it is stable, with the body upright and the right front knee not extended past your toes. You are now in the lunge position. 
  • Using the strength in your legs, push yourself upright to a standing position, and now the left leg swings forward as does the right arm, and the exercise is repeated. 
  • Start the exercise with 6-8 lunges, gradually progressing up to 10-12 lunges at a slow steady pace preferably on your own count.

 

  • Note: Do these lunges after you have completed the Intro level progression of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, and C Exercises, with a recovery in between each exercise of walking back to your starting position.

Advanced Level

  • Do these lunges only after you have completed the progression of Advanced Level of Walking A’s, Skipping A’, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, and C Exercises, with a slow jog recovery back to your starting position in between each exercise.

Quick-Feet or “Happy Feet”

Intro Level

  • The idea is to move your feet as quickly as possible. Stand tall, up on your toes, with the movement on and off the balls of your feet and very little knee action. Keep your eyes straight ahead and concentrate on moving your feet (and arms) quickly.
  • 10 seconds as described above, after you have completed the entire progression of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, C Exercise, and Lunges. Recover as always with a walk back to your starting position in between each exercise.
  • You may repeat your Happy Feet if you’re having fun and are ready for it!

Advanced Level

  • Super Happy Feet:  Faster paced than above! 15 seconds at medium-to-hard effort followed by 5 seconds of extreme effort – moving your feet as fast as possible. 
  • Do this only after you have completed the entire progression of Advanced Level Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, C Exercises, and Lunges. Repeat your Happy Feet 2-3 times if you’re having fun and are ready for it, recovering with a light shuffle-jog in between. 

 

Recommended Program
As you read and try the exercises described, keep in mind they work as a natural progression. Slowly add the exercises as follows:

Intro Level

Week 1:      10 seconds of each of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s and Skipping A’s
Week 2:      Repeat.
Week 3:      10 seconds of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s
Week 4:      Repeat.
Week 5:     10 seconds of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 6 Lunges
Week 6:     Repeat.
Week 7:    10 sec of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B's, Skipping B’s, 6 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 8:    Repeat.
Week 9:    10 sec of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 8 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 10:    Repeat.
Week 11:    15 sec of Stationary A’s, Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 10 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 12:    Repeat.
Week 13:    Repeat. Sun Run here we come!

This is all that is necessary for a beginning walker or runner. If there is good fitness and motivation, the participants can either increase from 10 to 20 seconds for each exercises, or go to the Advanced Level, which simply means the addition of Running A’s, and completing all exercises using extreme effort.

Advanced Level:  For avid runners only.

Week 1:      10 sec of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 6 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 2:      Repeat.
Week 3:      Repeat.
Week 4:     15 sec of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 8 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 5:     Repeat.
Week 6:     Repeat.
Week 7:     20 sec of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 10 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 8:     Repeat.
Week 9:     Repeat.
Week 10:   30 sec of Walking A’s, Skipping A’s, Running A’s, Walking B’s, Skipping B’s, 12 Lunges, Happy Feet
Week 11:    Repeat.
Week 12:    Repeat.
Week 13:    Repeat. Sun Run here we come!

This is all that is necessary for most runners. If there is good fitness and further motivation, the participant may choose 1 set but with extreme effort, OR complete each exercise twice. After several weeks, the serious athlete might attempt each exercise 3 times.       

By: Lynn Kanuka, SportMedBC Run Walk Coordinator, and Paul Purin, InTraining Area Coordinator

Copyright SportmedBC. For more information – info@sportmedbc.com

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