This article was originally published on XL Athlete by Matthew Van Dyke and Cal Dietz. With their kind permission we’re sharing it here in a two-part series for Trayn readers. This is part 1 and contains the training and injury resistance aspects that should be considered. Go here for part 2.

Aerobic training lays the foundation upon which all other methods of training are built. If this base aerobic training is ignored, specific, high-intensity training cannot be supported in later training cycles because an athlete will not achieve maximal benefits from the high-intensity work.

“Metabolic Injury Prevention Running” enhances an athlete’s aerobic abilities, which is the main objective in the aerobic training cycle, while simultaneously working to reduce injuries to soft-tissue areas of the hip, groin, knee, and ankle. The reduction of injuries should be viewed as the primary goal of any coach and should be consistently and actively pursued. Metabolic injury prevention running focuses on both the reduction of injuries and training of the cardiovascular system, while keeping impact intensities minimal. Impact intensities can be kept relatively low in this aerobic training method due to the focus on movements that use the stabilizing muscles of the hip and groin area, such as shuffling and carioca.

Sports Performance Pyramid
Sports Performance Pyramid

The activation and utilization of the stabilizer muscles leads to movement efficiency being reduced significantly when compared to running or sprinting in a straight line, while these commonly underused and injury prone muscles are strengthened and thus, less prone to injury. This method also can be used to prepare elite athletes for pre-season training camps or the competition season. The same movements are utilized as in the base endurance model, just at maximal intensities. This increased intensity further drives adaptations of the cardiovascular system while also continuing to reduce injury likelihood to the small, stabilizer muscles due to training muscle functioning and timing at high, game speed velocities. This high-intensity training prepares athletes with optimal conditioning levels and the increased ability to compete in their training camps.

Base Aerobic Training Aspects

Metabolic injury prevention running is used to drive extremely high levels of aerobic, cardiovascular fitness, which is the foundation upon which all other strength and conditioning abilities are built. This method of training allows for low-impact, high-intensity training by activating stabilizing muscles, particularly those of the hip and groin area. These stabilizer muscles are trained with the completion of non-typical running methods such as shuffling, carioca, and cross-over running.

These methods of locomotion cause the body to work at a decreased level of efficiency which causes an elevation of the heart rate. It is important to note that the intensity will appear low at the start of this training piece as the athlete is moving at considerably lower speeds than when sprinting. The use of the commonly inactive and undertrained stabilizer muscles and movement patterns that cause the body to be less efficient than normal will lead to heart rate elevation to an aerobic training zone of 140-150 bpm. This heart rate elevation can be manipulated based on the needs of intensity. The intensity can range from as low as 110 bpm up to the lactate threshold of each individual athlete, which ensures that aerobic intensities are kept and trained.

The intensity to reach this training zone will typically fall between the 30 and 60% effort range for athletes. The low impact intensities allow this aerobic training method to be completed barefoot. This aerobic training method leads to an increase in work capacity which lays the foundation for future, high-intensity training that will be completed in later stages of the block periodization method.

Injury Resistance Aspects

The activation and then training of the stabilizing muscles of the hip and groin lead to increased functioning at higher levels of work, which reduce injury patterns. This is accomplished by training these underused and weak links of the kinetic chain in planes in which they are not typically trained. These stabilizing muscles are commonly the victims of soft-tissue injuries in the lower body simply because they are not strong enough to continue to support the increased strength of the primary movers.

As a strength coach and an athlete, it is easy to train the primary movers, such as the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, due to their direct correlation with improved lower body strength and maximal speed. However, the mentality that “an athlete is only as strong as their weakest link” must be remembered at all times. If an athlete has the ability to squat an enormous amount of weight but has not taken the time to strengthen the stabilizing muscles, they will not be able to perform maximally and will deal with soft-tissue, stabilizer muscle injuries. These injuries, although minor in nature, will hinder their performance until the true issue is addressed. This issue is addressed head on with this metabolic injury prevention running method. The low impact intensities allow this aerobic training method to be completed barefoot.

Training barefoot leads to increased strength in the plantar and dorsiflexors of the foot, while also strengthening the muscles of the lower leg. This develops and trains the foot to properly absorb impact and prevents shin splints and foot fractures. Barefoot training used in this lower-intensity training continues to contribute to injury prevention by improving strength levels in the commonly weak and underused muscles.

We continue this blog post series with game speed and off-season training in part 2.

About the authors

Matthew Van Dyke is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Denver. At Denver, Matt is responsible for designing and implementing speed, strength, conditioning, and mobility workouts for men’s lacrosse, alpine ski, volleyball, tennis and swimming.

Cal Dietz is a Sports Performance Coach at the University of Minnesota, Co-Author of Triphasic Training, and owner of XL Athlete. During his tenure, Dietz has trained: a Hobey Baker Award winner, two Big Ten Athletes of the Year, athletes that have achieved 375 All-American honors, 24 Big Ten/WCHA championships teams and 7 NCAA Team Champions, and 13 teams finish in the top four in the nation. He has consulted with Olympic and World Champions in various sports and professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and Professional Boxing.