The Best Strength Exercises For Runners
Good runners must have a strong core and powerful leg strength. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner, practicing intervals or working on endurance conditioning, strength training is necessary in order to improve – and the best place to start is by mastering technique and balance with body weight movements.
With any strength program, it’s important to consider muscular balance. Runners need to work the upper body equally, especially all the muscles in the posterior chain (the back of the body). This is balanced with a good stretch routine that focuses on hamstrings, hips and glutes to avoid muscle tightening. Foam rolling is a fantastic activity for recovery days.
If you’re serious about running, give these four key moves in this strength workout a try. Do three sets of 8-10 repetitions on each leg, with 30 seconds rest in between. Work to a tempo of 2, 1, 2; that’s 2 seconds at the top of the movement, 1 second pause and squeeze, and 2 seconds down.
1. Walking lunges with a twist
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep the core tight and back upright at all times, take a controlled step forward with your right leg, lowering your hips towards the floor by bending both knees to a 90-degree angle. The back knee should point towards, but not touch the ground, and your front knee should be directly over the ankle. Extend your arms out in front of you with a light free weight and rotate over your opposing knee and return to starting point. Press your right heel into the ground and push off with your left foot to bring your left leg forward, stepping with control into a lunge on the other side and repeat in a forward walking motion.
Progressions: Add dumbbells; a barbell; kettlebells; move backwards; add a resistance exercise such as a shoulder press.
2. Step up with knee raise
Place a bench or a box in front of you and step onto it with one foot. As you plant your foot, drive with your other foot bringing your knee up as high as you can. Lower it back down and step back onto the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Progressions: Increase the height of the box/bench; add dumbbells; a barbell; kettlebells; repeat desired number of reps with the same leg.
3. Stability ball hamstring curl
Lie on your back on the floor and place your calves on top of the stability ball closest to you. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to drop (keep your body stable and in a straight line at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you.
Progressions: Place calves on the very end of the ball to increase range of motion; do the exercise with just one leg, holding the other leg in the air above your hips; decrease stability by placing hands off the floor and/or hold a weight across the chest.
4. Spider plank
Start in a traditional plank position with your forearms on the ground and your body perfectly straight. Bring your right knee forward towards your right elbow, then return to the plank position. Repeat by bringing your left knee toward your left elbow.
Progressions: Start with your elbows on the ground; bring your right knee towards your left elbow and left knee towards your right elbow; use a destabilising object placing hands on either a box or bosu ball; place feet in a TRX for best progression.