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Strength and stability: 7 reasons why Mo Farah stays injury-free and how you can too (part 2)
For some time, coach Salazar has been renowned for his focus on strength and stability. And, in his view, it’s the number one reason for the dramatic improvement in Farah’s performance over the past couple of years. Our countdown of the key factors behind Mo Farah’s injury-free success continues.
Mo Farah training secrets
Earlier this week we started our review of the top 7 factors behind Mo Farah’s consistent, injury-free success. You’ll find the start of the article here; your countdown continues below.
6 Strength and stability training
It may be number 6 in our list, but for Alberto Salazar this is the number one reason for the dramatic improvement in Farah’s performance.
Salazar has been brutally honest about Farah’s condition when the athlete first joined the coach at his training camp in Portland, Oregon, in 2011. He describes a ‘skinny’ middle-distance runner, ‘a 90lb weakling’ with ‘no upper body strength’.
As Salazar puts it, you can’t win races at this level without upper body strength.
…He was the weakest athlete I’d ever trained…he was a 90lb weakling. The number one thing that has helped Mo is not the 110 miles a week he puts in on the road, but the seven hours a fortnight he does in the gym…
An indication of the extent to which the Farah strength training regime has been transformed under Salazar was provided in a superb OregonLive.com photo essay earlier this year.
The photo essay by Thomas Boyd (from which the images below are taken), as well as a related OregonLive.com article, provide a fly-on-the-wall perspective, as Farah and training partner Galen Rupp are put through their paces by Salazar.
More generally, the Salazar regime has provided for Farah a renewed focus on stability.
We know that a key part of the Salazar training regime is the work of David McHenry (Head coach for strength and conditioning at the Nike Oregon Project), who provides a focus on core and hip stability in three sessions per week with the Salazar athletes. This was highlighted in a recent post by James Dunne of Kinetic-Revolution.com, which drew attention to the McHenry exercise routines detailed in earlier Running Times and TherapeuticAssociates.com articles.
The eight exercises that make up the McHenry routine are listed below. Click through for video footage of each one:
- Hot Salsa (watch video)
- Runner Pulls (watch video)
- Side Plank Knee to Chest (watch video)
- The Reverse Clamshell (watch video)
- The Clamshell (watch video)
- Mountain Climbers (watch video)
- Runner Touch (watch video)
- The Jane Fonda (watch video)
Why such a strong emphasis on strength and stability? Well, a key reason is running form (and we’ve more to say on this crucial issue below).
Salazar felt that Farah’s lack of strength was undermining his end-race performance. Arguably, the deterioration in Farah’s running form when under stress may also have been increasing the athlete’s vulnerability to injuries.
…At the end of races, he would tire and his head would bob around and his arms would flail…
In short, the increased emphasis on strength and stability work under Salazar has been a win-win situation for Farah.
Improved strength has supported Farah’s running form when under duress, facilitating the explosive finishes that have been Farah’s trademark in recent times.
Moreover, by reducing his susceptibility to injury, the strengthening of Farah has also facilitated improved consistency in training, enabling even greater improvements in performance.