A Beginner’s Guide to Amputee Running: Pre-Run Exercises
Our “Amputee Running Series” aims to provide you with a practical guide to help you begin running with your prosthesis. This fifth installment will help you create a pre-run exercise routine to strengthen and condition your body before a run. For the previous articles on amputee running, head to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4—AK and BK.
If you have mastered walking on your prosthesis and met the minimum requirements for running, then running on your prosthesis is within your reach. Now it's time to create a pre-run ritual to protect your muscles from straining.
On your quest to become a proficient prosthetic runner, you need to focus on strengthening your leg, especially your sound side leg which will bear most of the load. Aside from strengthening your leg, you need to continually build your endurance so your body can meet the demands of running with a prosthetic leg.
Leg strengthening exercises
The following exercises will build strength in your legs, feet, and hips. You will need resistance bands, which can easily be found in any sporting goods store. Resistance bands are available in various levels of strength: light (3-5 pounds of resistance), medium (8 pounds), heavy, and extra heavy. The latter two provide 12-20 pounds of resistance. They are typically used by those who have been training for years.
Standing hip flexor
1. Attach your resistance band to a stable object like a pole. Put your sound side leg on the other end of the resistance band. Face away from where it is attached.
2. Pulse your leg forward on two counts, then release it back. While you are doing this, remember to keep your prosthetic leg straight.
3. Repeat with your prosthetic leg.
Standing hip abductor
1. With your resistance band attached to a stable object, put your sound side leg on the other end of the band.
2. Stand with your prosthetic leg slightly behind you and put your sound side leg with the band in front of it. The band should cross you.
3. Lift your sound side leg to its side. Lift for two counts, then release it back down. Repeat on the other leg.
Seated hip external rotator
1. Sit on a bench. Attach the resistance band to the prosthetic leg’s end of the bench. Loop your sound leg on the other end of the band.
2. While keeping your knees together, lift your sound side leg opposite the anchor of the resistance band. Pulse your leg for two counts, then resume the original position. Repeat this move on your prosthetic leg.
Foot strengthening exercises
Foot strengthening exercises can be done at any time you are sitting down. You can strengthen your feet when you are working at your desk, watching television, or waiting on a bench. Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise, and do them at least three or four times per week.
1. With your feet flat on the floor, curl your toes and arch the foot on your sound side leg.
2. Flatten your foot again, and repeat.
1. Plant your feet on the floor, then lift your heels while keeping the balls of your feet on the ground.
2. Lower your heels, then repeat.
Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion
1. Stretch your legs straight in front of you, then point your toes (plantar flexion).
2. Bring your toes back and flex your feet so your toes are pointing towards the ceiling (dorsiflexion). Repeat.
Squats are effective in strengthening numerous muscles in your legs. You can start slow by avoiding low squats and eventually progress to lower squats.
1. Put a high table or surface behind you. This can serve both as support and as your goal squat height. Then begin with your knees shoulder-width apart.
2. Hold your arms out to the side if you need help maintaining your balance.
3. Squat down to tap the high surface with your buttocks. Return to standing.
4. As you squat, ensure that your knees do not come forward over your toes. Doing so increases the amount of stress on the knee, and this can cause pain.
5. Perform three sets of 15-20 repetitions.
When this becomes easier, you can start working with a slightly lower table or surface. When squatting with your body weight becomes too easy, consider using weights.
As a prosthetic runner, you need to continually work on improving your endurance and stamina levels. Sometime in the future, a distance you find challenging today will feel easier. While improving your stamina is great for your weekend runs, it will also improve your daily energy level.
To improve your endurance levels, you can try cycling, training on the elliptical, or brisk walking on a treadmill. You can start by training on these machines for a half hour. As your training progresses, you can keep adding a few minutes to your workout. Then increase the incline on the treadmill or the resistance on the bike and elliptical.
Running is known for pushing athletes to keep on improving themselves through strength and endurance exercises as well as running. When you find yourself feeling discouraged about doing your pre-run exercises, remember that prosthetic running demands a substantial amount of energy. You need to rely on your strength and endurance so you can maximize the time you spend running.What do you think of these exercises? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.