5 Quick Strength Exercises for Runners
1. Dead Lifts and Front Raises
- Muscle Targets: Lower back, hamstrings, traps, delts, biceps, triceps
- Equipment: Dumbbell or medicine ball, BOSU (advanced)
- Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width. Tilt your pelvis backward and arch your back, with your knees slightly bent. Keep your pelvis tilted throughout the exercise, even as you straighten up and bend over again.
- Bend forward at the hips, being careful not to round your back. Grip a dumbbell or medicine ball with both hands.
- Straighten and raise the weight up over your head toward the ceiling in one smooth movement. When the weight is at the highest point of the movement, your back should still be slightly arched and your pelvis tilted backward.
- Hold for a moment, then let the weight swing back down. This constitutes 1 rep.
Tip: To get accustomed to the deadlift position, practice gripping your sides with your thumbs at the back of your obliques and bend over.
This exercise combines two exercises into one complex movement. Our program does not incorporate the Deadlift as a stand-alone exercise because the major muscles used to perform the Deadlift—the glutes and the lower back muscles—can generate so much power that you need a heavy weight to challenge them; that kind of weight is usually found only in a gym. Instead, we get results by making the exercise more complex.
Perform this movement from atop a BOSU, either side up.
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2. Fire Hydrant
- Muscle Target: Glutes (medius)
- Equipment: None
- Get on your hands and knees on your exercise mat.
- Keep your right knee bent and raise your right leg out toward the side as high as you can.
- In order to fully engage the gluteus medius, make sure that you do not rotate your body as you lift your leg. Keep your body square, and focus on moving nothing but your leg.
- Complete your target number of reps, then switch to your other side.
When working the right leg during this exercise, hold your left arm off the ground and extended in front of you. By removing one of the supports for your body, you introduce instability to the exercise. Switch arms and repeat on the other side.
3. Hip Raises
- Muscle Targets: Glutes, lower back, abs (transverse)
- Equipment: Medicine ball (advanced)
- Lie faceup on your exercise mat, with your knees bent, your legs together, and your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your hips in the air until you have achieved a straight line from your knees to your upper body.
- Lower down to the starting position. This constitutes 1 rep.
Tip: Be sure to keep the raised leg in the same position throughout; only your hips should be rising up.
Coach’s Note: This exercise works the muscles on the back of your body, especially the glutes, while also providing a good stretch for the hip flexor muscles on the front of your body.
Stretch one leg straight out, and hold it just a couple of inches off the floor. Now push off your other foot and raise your hips up in the air. Perform the target number of reps, then repeat on the other side
This is similar to the one-legged form above, except with one leg planted on a medicine ball instead of on the floor, which engages the hamstrings of your planted leg as they prevent the ball from rolling away.
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- Muscle Targets: Delts, triceps, seratus anterior
- Equipment: Dumbbell or medicine ball, stability ball (advanced)
- Lie on your exercise mat faceup, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold a weight directly above you with both hands.
- Keeping your elbows locked in a slightly bent position, draw the weight backward until it almost touches the floor, then pull it back until your arms are pointed straight up to the ceiling once again.
- Keep your elbows locked in a slightly bent position throughout the movement. If you bend and extend your elbow as you perform the movement, you focus the exercise on the triceps rather than on the other major muscle groups that we are aiming to improve. (This constitutes 1 rep.)
Lie faceup on a stability ball while performing this exercise.
Complete all reps while holding a dumbbell with only one hand, then switch to the other hand.
Muscle Targets: Pecs, delts (anterior), triceps, abs, glutes
Equipment: Stability ball (advanced)
- Lie facedown on an exercise mat, with your hands palms down on the mat slightly wider than your armpits.
- Raise your body up by extending your elbows.
- After reaching full extension, bend your elbows and lower down to an inch or two above the mat. This constitutes 1 full rep.
Keep your chin up during the exercise, turn the heels of your palms slightly outward with your fingers pointed slightly inward, and do not lock your elbows at full extension because this takes the pressure off your muscles and puts it on your joints. Keep your back straight throughout. Do not arch your back or let your hips sag down. Keep your body rigid, which not only protects your lower back, but also effectively works the muscles of your core.
Divide your target number of reps by two, and perform half of them with one leg held an inch or two off the floor. Then immediately continue on to the remaining reps with the other leg upraised. This form engages your core more effectively as it struggles to maintain balance and also provides a good workout for your glutes, which will be working to hold the upraised leg off the floor.
Keep your feet on a stability ball while performing this exercise. Making the platform for your feet movable introduces instability, which engages your core even more.
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By Jeff Horowitz; These exercises are excerpted from Quick Strength For Runners by Jeff Horowitz (VeloPress, 2013).