If you follow my blog and read my weekly workout recaps, you’ll already know that I am not a huge fan of strength training. Though I love some good core work and yoga, I will always choose to tie on my running shoes rather than pick up some free weights or a kettlebell.
However, strength training is essential for runners. I’m not talking about heavy weight-lifting or Crossfit (although it that’s what you’re into, great!), but rather simple exercises using your own body weight or some free weights that strengthen the muscles you use for running. Strength training can help prevent injury, increase your metabolism, improve your running form, and make you a faster runner.
Think about your last race or hard run: did you begin to slouch near the end, or did your legs start to burn? Strengthening your back, core, and legs gives you the muscular strength to push through the last few hard miles and keep running at a strong pace. A strong back and core helps you maintain an upright posture, which leads to better running form and more efficient running. Strong glutes, quads, and hamstrings help you power over hills and maintain a quick and fast turnover. Strength training these muscles can also prevent muscular imbalances, which in turn prevents injuries and keeps you running. Most of all, a combination of cardio and weight training builds lean muscle and increases your metabolism, which is essential if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a certain weight.
Strength training has great benefits for runners, but honestly it can be hard to find the time or energy for strength training, especially when you’re running high-mileage or doing a lot of physically demanding interval workouts. However, you don’t need to lift weights or do bodyweight exercises every day to reap the benefits; you will see improvements from just one or two days on strength training on top of a consistent running program.
For a time-pressed person or someone who’d rather be logging more miles, the best strength training program works multiple muscle groups with each move, instead of isolating muscle groups. After all, your muscles work in coordination together as you run, so you should do your strength training in a similar manner. Engaging multiple muscle groups also increases the amount of calories you burn from strength training!
This strength training for runners workout emphasizes your shoulders, back, core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves—all essential muscles for short and long distance runners alike. Since each move works multiple muscle groups at once, the entire routine should take only 15-20 minutes to complete. If you want more of a challenge, increase the number of reps!
Reverse Lunge with Rotation: Hold a lighter weight (5-10 lbs) with both hands at waist level. Step back with your right leg into a lunge and twist your torso towards your left leg. Untwist your torso as you return to standing. Repeat with your left leg for one rep.
Squat with Overhead Press: Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell (10-20 lbs) with both hands in front of your body. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and slowly lower yourself into a squat. Hold for a breathe and then raise up to standing. As you stand, press the weight up over your head with the arms, pause, and then lower to starting. This is one rep.
Step-Up with Offset Weight: Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell (5-15 lbs) in your right hand. Stand in front of a chair or other step about knee-height. Step up onto the chair with your right leg and push through your right foot to raise up your left leg. Pause, and return to start. Do all reps for your right leg and then switch the weight to your left hand and repeat for left leg. (See this video for a visual example.)
Single-Leg Bridge: Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground, your knees back, and your arms by your side. Be sure to engage your abs so your back is flat on the ground. Raise your right leg straight into the air. Use your left leg to push your butt up so that a straight line forms from your knees to your shoulders. Pause and lower to the ground. Repeat for all reps and then switch to your left leg.
Bent-Over Row: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. With your hands resting by your thighs, hinge at the hips to bend forward, keeping your back flat and your abs engage. Your arms should be hanging straight down parallel to your legs. When you are bent over, engage your shoulder blades and slowly raise the weights to your chest. Pause and lower to start; repeat. (See this image for a visual example.)
Push-Up: Get into a plank position where you are facing the ground with your arms extended beneath your shoulders and your spine is straight. Slowly lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor, being sure to keep your elbows close to your sides. Push yourself up to the starting position for one rep.
Plank: Get into a plank position with your elbows bent and your forearms resting on the ground. Be sure to keep your spine in a straight line and your back level. Pull in your abs as if you were bracing for a punch, and hold for 60-90 seconds.
If you do not have kettlebell, dumbbells work great! You will also need a chair and an exercise mat for this workout.
Questions of the Day:
How often do you strength train?
What’s your favorite strength training move? —-> mine right now are lunges and planks!