This strength training blog will be delivered in a series over the next week and geared toward the runner, triathlete and walker. I hope this series will leave you with a handful of exercises to maintain strength through your season. However, a biomechanical assessment of your individual needs should be considered at the conclusion of your season so that you are able to make optimal use of your off-season time to improve specific strengths.
The first exercise of this series is the Leg Press. Those who have worked with me or other MIHP staff in the past, know our lack of love for any machine training, but I often recognize the need that individuals have for that "burn" they get from machine training. The beauty of the leg press is that you are able to produce a co-contraction of the leg muscles vs an isolated contraction that the knee extension or leg curl machine offer. In function, the leg muscles never work independent of each other, they must rely on the stabilizing muscles to do their jobs so that they can contract correctly at the right times.
The runner and walker need to emphasize strengthening the hip stabilizers called on in a single -legged stance or narrow base stance (glute medius and maximus). The cyclist need to consider strengthening of this same muscle group, as the over-use of their quads and calf muscles often predispose them to an injury.
My leg-press prescription is to perform this exercise in a "shallow" fashion and single legged. Meaning you will come from a fully extended position of the knee to only 30-45 degrees of knee bend. I prefer a sled-fashion machine where the platform is non moving, however you can still perform this exercise on the machine with a moving platform. Initiate this exercise by placing your feet approximately hip width apart on the platform. Choose a weight that is going to be challenging (probably over 40# for most). Your feet should be placed high enough on the platform that the knees are bent only 90 degrees. Push yourself out using both legs to a fully extended position, before dropping one leg off the platform. Proceed to lower yourself no further than 30-45 degrees of knee bend and back out. Repeat 15-20 reps on one leg before placing your other leg back on the platform to return yourself to the starting position and repeating on the other leg. Your resistance should be heavy enough that you are left feeling fatigued at the end of the set (like you couldn't do two more reps). The burn should be centered in the glute, hamstrings and hip area greater than the quad burn felt with a traditional leg press. Begin with 3 sets and progress to 3 sets of 15-20 reps 3x per week.