Why strength train?
There are a number of good reasons for runners to strength train, but many runners still don’t take the time to do it. Remember that it’s not all about the miles you run per week. One or two days per week of strength training will help you strengthen your key muscles and joints, decrease the risk of injury, and can ultimately improve your run time.
Although some early research showed that traditional strength training can have a detrimental effect on performance, there are now studies that show moderate strength training that is adapted to runner’s schedules and needs can help improve speed and joint stability.
One researcher, Kenji Doma, recommended that to avoid the previously noted detrimental effects, it was simply a matter of accounting for intensity and recovery time.
“In the case of trained and moderately trained runners undertaking high-intensity running sessions after lower-extremity resistance training, they may need more than one day to recover,” said Doma.
So when properly done, strength training can be very beneficial for runners.
Best Strength Training Exercises
It seems obvious enough to focus on strengthening your legs, but don’t forget your back and core muscles, too. These muscles work in tandem when you run to keep your spine stabilized. Your back and core muscles also help you maintain the proper running posture. Strong arms can help you pump more efficiently to maintain your pace. You’ll also want to focus on the glutes. Running with engaged glutes can help relieve the pressure on your hamstrings, which can help lower the risk of hamstring injury.
A properly formed plank works the core, lower back and shoulders, which are all vital (if not underappreciated) muscles for good running form.
To perform a plank, lie on your stomach on the floor. Prop yourself up on your elbows and raise your feet onto your toes. Hold this position as long as you can, aiming for at least one minute.
Variations of the plank include the side plank, which works the obliques.
To perform a side plank, start on your right side and support your upper body by fully extending your right arm. Keep your right hand slightly above your right shoulder, not directly underneath. The weight of your lower body should be on the outer right foot. Raise your left arm straight in the air for an extra stretch. Make sure to perform a side plank on both sides, holding for at least 20 seconds.
For some visuals on how to do a plank and a side plank, check ou tWikiHow.
This move works your legs and arms in a simple lunge motion.
Hold a dumbbell or other weight in each hand, and raise your arms straight above your head with your elbows locked. Step one foot forward and bend into a lunge until your front knee is at a right angle. Bring your foot back to the starting position and switch legs.
To increase the difficulty, try reverse lunges. Instead of stepping forward, step one leg back and lower into the lunge. Bringing the back foot forward works a different set of muscles than brining a forward foot back.
Imagine four corners of a box on the ground. Jump from one corner to another in a counter-clockwise motion as fast as you can. Try to go around 3 times for one set. Then reverse direction and hit every corner going clockwise 3 times. Increase the reps as you get better, but try to complete at least 3 sets each time.
This exercise from BodyBuilding works on the hip abductors to increase your range of motion and strengthen the stability of your hips.
Lie on your side, making sure to keep your spine straight. While keeping your feet together, use your glutes and thighs to raise your knee to hip level. You can try adding a resistance band around your knees to increase the resistance.
You can do as many as 100 clamshells at a time to start. After 50 reps, flip onto your other side to work the opposite hip flexors.
Focus on your glutes in this exercise to avoid becoming too reliant on your hamstrings while running.
Stand holding a weighty object or barbell in both hands. Bend your right knee slightly and begin to lean forward, lifting up your left leg straight out behind you. Lower the weights slowly, using your glutes to maintain your pace and balance. When the weights reach mid-shin, slowly rise back up while lowering your left leg. Repeat for 10 reps, then switch legs.
This exercise and more running strength exercises can be found on Competitor’s Running website.
Best Detailed Strength Programs for Runners
Runner’s World developed the “Get Strong Plan” specifically for runners in all seasons. The exercises are broken down into 3 periods of training: flexibility and stability, strength and power, and maintain gains. Each period is accompanied by a specific month and weekly schedule of training to work with a typical year of running seasons. The Get Strong Plan is everything you need for the year in one simple schedule.
This short program from BodyBuilding works on postural exercises, stabilization, strength and power.
Active.com also has some excellent tips for setting up your own program using exercises focused on endurance, sprints and strength training.
You may also wish to consider yoga training, which can help with proper posture. Running with proper posture helps you avoid injury and move more efficiently. To review the best running form, head over to New York Road Runners.
Yoga can also help with stretching and lengthening to prevent injury and flexibility to strengthen your joints.
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