All runners share a common goal: to be better runners. It doesn’t matter if you started Ease Into 5K last week or if you already have a few races under your belt; you want to become faster, more efficient and more injury resistant.
But just running isn’t going to be enough. It is important to incorporate strength training into your workout plans. Not only do these exercises help you build muscle power, but they also fire up your metabolism and strengthen your bones against age-related deterioration.
To become a stronger, faster, more complete runner, make sure you add these four running specific strength training exercises to your running routine:
If we had to pick just one strength training exercise for runners it would be squats. They strengthen the entire lower body, by targeting running-specific muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, and glutes. Squats can even help you strengthen your knees and prevent knee pain and injury.
Begin this exercise by standing with your feet hip distance apart, with your toes facing forward. Slowly lower your body and sit back like you are sitting in a chair behind you. Make sure your knees don’t cross the plane of your toes when your glutes, quads and hamstrings are engaged. Straighten legs and come back up to standing to complete one rep.
Bodyweight squats can easily be added to your post-run routine and, even though they don’t require any equipment, you can always try modified versions that combine the squats’ movement with dumbbells, a band or a swiss ball.
The upper body is often neglected by runners when they train. Strong arms, chest, shoulders, as well as a strong core are essential for overall fitness and powerful, faster runs.
Push-ups are great for the upper body. They help strengthen the chest, core, biceps, triceps and back in just one move and without any type of equipment.
The exercise is very simple: in a plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, bend elbows and descend down until the chest nearly touches the ground. Push yourself all the way up to plank position for one rep.
If you are a beginner, you can start with your knees on floor or even opt for a wall push instead. Depending on your fitness level or where your train takes places, there are several variations of the traditional push-up position, that you can easily incorporate to your training plan.
Most runners are probably tired of hearing about how they should strengthen their core. But there’s a reason! A strong core – your abs, obliques, lower back and hips – is essential for improving stride, form, breathing and speed.
The plank is the perfect exercise for strengthening every muscle in your core. Begin in a push-up position, with your arms straight (palms below shoulders) and weight balanced evenly between hands and toes. Align the body straight from the top of the head through the heels. Tighten up the abs while lifting through the chest to create as much space as possible in between the chest and the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and work up to 1-3 minutes.
You can progress by alternate lifting each leg or using a balance board as support for your hands.
As a runner, all you want is to keep on moving forward. But this repetitive, unidirectional movement, along with muscle weakness, can be the cause for the most common injuries among runners. That’s why it’s so important to train your body through other planes of movement, like backwards or sideways.
Lateral lunges help you train often-neglected muscles like the hip flexors, quads, calves, core, hamstrings and glutes, helping increase stability at your joints, improve your balance, and prevent injury.
To perform a lateral lunge, begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Then, step three to four feet out to the right with one foot while sending the hips back and squatting to a 90 degree angle at the right knee. Try to sit down with your butt, keeping your back as upright as possible, your abs tight and chest up. When coming back to standing, engage the glute to power off the ground. After finishing all reps on this side, repeat on left side to complete one set.
What strength training exercise best works for you? Tells us all about it in the comments below.