If you want to be a stronger and faster runner, you need to incorporate strength training into your exercise program, a fact that surprises most runners. Strength training for runners will not only improve your performance, it can forestall injuries that will sideline you from running. Add these strength training exercises to your routine to boost performance.
Strength Training for Runners: Why You Need It
Running is hard, demanding work. Every runner knows this. The impact of running places the muscles under strain as every step hits the pavement or trail. When you have adequate muscle strength to absorb this strain and keep going, you can run well and not get injured. When you do not have sufficient strength, your bones and fascia take a load off, absorbing some of the impact. Over time, this negatively impacts your body. Keep going, and you could wind up with strains, sprains, and overuse injuries. Worse still, distance running can actually rob you of existing muscle mass the longer you do it, due to the impact.
Strength training for runners can boost muscle mass to get you through a long run and stave off muscle loss caused by long distance running.
Bodyweight Exercises for Runners
Bodyweight exercises are perfect for runners, because you don’t need any specialized equipment to do them. Just tack them on at the end of a run, or work through a bodyweight sequence on an off day.
If you only add two bodyweight exercises to your strength training for runners routine, incorporate lunges and squats. These two exercises work most of the muscles that runners rely on (glutes, quads, and hamstrings), building muscle mass so your body can withstand the pounding pavement and perform better on long runs. Start off with no weight, then add dumbbells to increase the intensity.
Core Work for Runners
Runners can have better form (and prevent injury) with a stable core, yet too many runners simply don’t target the back and abs. Key strength training exercises for these muscles include the plank (and its attendant variations), the bicycle crunch, the reverse crunch, and the mountain climber. These exercises tighten and tone the abs and low back, which stabilizes your stride when running and can prevent injury.
Hip Exercises for Runners
Many runners have hams of steel and get by without using their glutes and pelvic muscles the way they need to. Hip exercises like the single-leg deadlift target the pelvic muscles and the glutes, so runners can improve their form and stability while addressing existing muscle imbalances. To complete a deadlift, stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee. Looking straight ahead (and keeping your back straight), lower your dumbbell to the floor. Your inactive leg will swing out behind you. This will decrease your injury potential and help you run faster.
Get a primer on these and other strength training exercises by seeing a trainer at your local gym. A trainer can demonstrate proper form for these exercises and discuss other ways that you can build muscle mass to reach your running goals.