Functional Ankle Strength Circuit
There are many ways to use a functional strength circuit to enhance cardio performance. I picked 5 exercises specifically to increase running performance. The 5 exercises are the Sled Push, a Double Rack Carry March, TRX Pikes or Crunches, Kettlebell Swings, and Bag Shoulder Throws (you can see an example of each exercise in the video below).
1.) Sled Push 30-40 yards.
Everyone loves (or loves to hate) the sled push for obvious reasons: IT’s INTENSE! The benefit of the sled push is elevating the intensity of the workout instantly, which will give the body a taste of its anaerobic energy systems: the energy system responsible for developing cardio strength. The other benefits, of course, are training the legs in a gait-like manor while conditioning the upper body to maintain its postural stability.
2.) Double Rack Carry March 30-60 seconds alternating (1-3 second pause each rep).
The Rack Carry March may be new for you, but I can assure you it will take the balance training observed in the banded step-up to a higher intensity. Coming off the heels of the sled push, the racked kettlebells provide added resistance to the muscles used for inspiration when breathing (diaphragm and intercostals), making recovery more challenging. Using a heavy enough weight, you will experience how small, subtle movements can dramatically affect balance in the marching movement.
3.) TRX Pikes/TRX Crunches 10-20 reps of either or both.
These anterior chain dominant core movements are great by themselves. They’ve been added to this particular workout to integrate knee and shoulder stability with hip movement. The key to success on the TRX Pikes is to keep the ankles dorsiflexed, the knees extended, and shoulders depressed.
4.) Kettlebell Swings 15-30 reps.
Kettlebell Swings and the TRX core work moves above fit together as if two pieces to a puzzle. The Kettlebell Swing works the entire back of the body while conditioning the plantar fascia uniquely. The pendulum-like trajectory of the kettlebell forces the plantar fascia to remain active while absorbing the weight of the kettlebell and firing it back in the opposite direction. Once again, the glutes will work to explosively drive the hips into extension, simulating an increase of speed or sprint when running.
5.) Bag Shoulder Throws 30-60 seconds.
This final movement is the most technically challenging. The Shoulder Throw uses all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse) and requires the entire body to work together to move smoothly. At the end of each shift, the hip, knee, and ankle should be positioned over one another, and the feet should be actively gripping the floor. With the bag on the shoulder, the spine becomes loaded, which will require more extension from the muscles of the spine. This unique postural load can do one of two things: strengthen thoracic extension or crush the individual into more rounding of the upper back. The former is ideal; however, the latter illuminates a need for more postural training; both are valuable if used correctly.
Sample Workout (Weight Room)
Repeat 2-5 sets of this circuit or until the entire body feels warm and coordinated
Sled Push – 30 to 40 yards
Double Rack Carry March – 30-60 seconds alternating legs (1-3 second pause for each rep)
TRX Core Exercise – 10-20 reps of either or both Pike and Crunch
Kettlebell Swings – 15-30 reps
Bag Shoulder Throws – 30-60 seconds
If you plan on going for a run from home, use the same corrective techniques above as they don`t require any equipment. For your strength circuit, use this bodyweight workout to prepare your body for a strong, stable, and safe cardio workout.
Sample Workout (Bodyweight)
Repeat 2-5 sets of this circuit or until the entire body feels warm and coordinated.
Air Squats – 15 to 30 reps
Alternating Side Lunges – 10 to 20 reps each
Reverse Lunge to Knee Drive – 10 to 20 reps reach
Slow Twisting Mountain Climbers – 20 to 50 reps total
Alternating March with Thoracic Twist – 30 to 60 total
Give this routine a try before your next cardio session, and don’t be surprised if you feel more power and less pain during and after your workout. This style of pre-workout routine also has benefits in strength and power training programs. Summer is the season known for outdoor activities. Ensure enjoyment all season long by intentionally strengthening your weaknesses in your warm-ups.