The “Knees Over Toes Guy” has advice for trail and ultrarunners.
Ben’s chronic knee problems started when he was just nine years old. By 18 he had had three surgical knee alterations and was eventually left with a decision: quit the sport of basketball altogether or to solve his knee issues. Staring at a lifetime of taking pain killers just to be active, Ben decided to dedicate his life to figuring out how to bulletproof his knees. After rebuilding his own athletic structure from the ground up—and taking his lifetime-best 19-inch vertical jump to an NBA-like 42 inches—he’s now dedicated to helping others not only avoid what he’s gone through but reach a level of athleticism that maybe they’d only dreamed of achieving.
by Ben Patrick
I’ve never run a distance event, so for that reason I hesitated—until now—to write a program for the task.
However, I have created an unusual effect in my own legs:
I can play basketball to the point of exhausting a professionally in-shape opponent, THEN have the juice in my legs to dunk over and over and over. I once tested this and was able to do 100 dunks AFTER a hoops session that had left everyone else exhausted. Once upon a time, my legs weren’t even strong enough to enable me to grab the rim, but in my 20s I changed that. I started ATG-style training.
This “after-effect” has now been reported hundreds of times by ATG users. The clues in this article will explain why.
I’ve now coached clients to big improvements in distance running pursuits ranging from triathlons to ultramarathons, and I’ve conducted interviews to provide you with their common denominators.
A sled can apply resistance to the effect of slowing down locomotion (moving from one place to another), thereby creating gentle strength training which is far more direct to the task of running than non-foot-based exercises such as the most classic leg moves—leg presses, leg extensions, squats, deadlifts—that are all done flat-footed.
The sled, on the other hand, is FOOT-based, meaning you have to naturally push through your toes on every step.
The sled can also instantly be manipulated with a belt to go BACKWARD. This turns the sled into a potent knee health tool, since it increases both the blood flow to the knee to heal itself, and the strength of the knee to protect itself, without the risk of weights bearing down dangerously hard.
And unlike a set of leg presses that may end after a minute, you can keep on sledding!
Yesterday I did backward sled for about half an hour while working from my phone. I couldn’t help but feel that this simple method is nothing short of magic. The way it both powers up and heals at the same time is unlike any other form of exercise I’ve experienced.
So clue number one is that the sled may be the natural piece of strength equipment for running, and it should be used at least as much backward as forward.
Training of the front of the ankles lagged behind training the calf muscles so much that less than 1 percent of gyms have machines for the anterior tibialis (anterior = front, and tibia = your shinbone, thus: the muscle on the front of your shin) despite most gyms having machines for calf muscles.
Free weight loading devices for the anterior tibialis had completely fallen out of the industry until I told an equipment manufacturer what needed to be done.
Now thousands of success stories attest to this simple concept: lift weights… from the ground up.
ATG has also popularized a bodyweight version of anterior tibialis raises (start with 25 reps).
Further, the advice of “no knees over toes” led to broadly missing out on another gem for distance: KOT (knees over toes) calf raises! When the knee goes over the toes, you can more adequately train the lower, deeper calf muscle: your soleus. Think like the “sole” of your foot because this muscle runs much deeper than the main calf muscle you see, which is called your gastrocnemius and literally means the “belly of the leg.” Your gastrocnemius is great, but your soleus has an even stronger pull, pound for pound, and is particularly relied upon when you run.
For distance running, I’d care about my soleus and anterior tibialis like most lifters care about their bench press and curls.
Neglecting the anterior tibialis is understandable because it does little to enhance appearance and it can’t lift impressive weights. Meanwhile, modern gyms built up around a culture of bodybuilding and powerlifting—not running.
Neglect of the soleus compounded this issue to create a mass effect of human bodies that are too weak from the ground up compared to what nature intended.
Finally, yes—we also want to work on the gastrocnemius! This gives us a common sense trifecta for distance running: upper calf, lower calf, and tib!
So clue number two is that without measurable strength training from the ground up, it is mathematically unlikely to know one’s true potential for pain-free running stamina.
Without the advancement of exercises like ATG Split Squats, it’s rare to find a lower body with balanced mobility and strength between the knees and hips. With a Nordic hamstring curl (pictured below) we can then attain world-class strength behind the knees. And while the glutes have been well studied, prior to ATG it wasn’t common at all to perform measurable strength training for the opposite of them!
With the basic ATG knee and hip exercises, almost anyone has tremendous potential to unlock new performance while getting more balanced in the process. No weak or tight links is the goal, upon which greater total power—without injury—is possible!
Clue number three is how I powered up my dunk. Combined with clues one and two, it’s pain-free and getting even more effortless as I age.
Rounding out the workouts are single bouts of bodyweight core and upper body training. This ensures you’re strong but not too top-heavy for the task of running. We also use the classic ATG shoulder and upper back exercises, which add some POP without excessive mass accumulation.
This is how I’d strength train to break a world record in distance running, and more importantly: ENJOY that amazing feeling of running without pain drawing my attention inward.
Yours in Solutions,
If you’d like, you can check out ATG For Distance at ATG Online Coaching (Train > Sports). It’s three simple sessions that would be easy to remember for the rest of your life!
I am trying to understand what you mean by sled, especially since you said you did it while you were on the phone. It may be me, but I don’t see where it is explained how to do this. Can you give more clarity please. Thanks.