By Linzay Logan—To become the best, most efficient runner you can be, just running isn’t going to be enough. Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner. Add these four running-specific strength training exercises to your running routine and you’ll become a stronger, faster, more complete runner for it.
Stand with your feet hip distance apart with your toes facing forward. Sit back like you are sitting in a chair behind you without allowing your knees to drift beyond your toes. Sit back until you feel your glutes, quads and hamstrings engage (about a 90 degree angle in your knees) and come back up to standing. Complete eight to 12 repetitions, adding weight when this becomes easy.
“If I had to pick just one strength training exercise for runners it would be bodyweight squats,” explained Atlanta-based running coach Carl Leivers. “Squats hit a lot of running-specific muscles, don’t require any equipment and can easily be added to your post-run routine. Pair that with some lunges and I guarantee 90 percent of runners will be sore the next day!”
Holding free weights or a barbell in front of your body slightly, bend one knee, hinge forward at the waist and lift the opposite leg behind you. Lower the weights, keeping them very close to the tops of your legs until you reach just below your knees. Engage your hamstring and glute of the leg planted on the ground and come back to standing. Repeat eight to 12 reps and switch to the other leg.
Related: Single-Leg Deadlift
“A lot of runners are hamstring dominant and don’t use their glutes,” explained John Martinez, assistant head doctor for the Ironman World Championships. “Runners figure out a way to run without using their glutes the way they should.”
Doing glute-specific exercises such as the single-leg deadlift can build the glute muscles so they can be used when running. “Donkey kicks and the single-leg pelvic bridge are other good exercises to tire the glute muscles out."
There are hundreds of exercises to do to strengthen your core. Crunches, planks, the bicycle, reverse crunch—they are all effective. The important issue is doing these exercises often and treating them as just as important part of your training schedule as your weekly long runs or speed drills.
Related: The Hand Switch
“Most runners are probably sick of hearing about how they should strengthen their core, but guess what? There’s a reason! Those muscles are vital and they don’t always get worked enough with just running,” explained Leivers. “If you don’t have hours to spend in the gym it’s always best to focus on core muscles—and not just abs. Back muscles are just as important and are often ignored.”
Related: 30 Minutes to a Stronger Core
Balancing on one foot and squat down, bending at the knee and sitting your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair behind you. Once down to about a 90 to 115 degree angle in your knee, extend your leg back up to standing. If this is too challenging allow the toes of your hovering foot to lightly rest on the ground. Complete eight to 12 repetition then switch to the other leg.
Running is basically hopping from foot to foot for miles and miles, so it's important to build solid balance in your pelvis—that way, you don’t have to balance yourself every time you take a step when running, explains Martinez. “Make sure your form is perfect with a regular two-leg squat and then move onto the single leg squat that requires you to stabilize your pelvis,” he said. When your pelvis is stabilized, your entire body, gait and stride become more stable, too. “This can help a lot with people with foot pronation,” Martinez said.
Linzay Logan is the copy editor for Competitor magazine and cares about punctuation probably a little too much. She particularly loves to avoid commas as well as add exclamation points whenever she can get away with it! She also loves to run marathons and half-marathons—probably a little too much. Don’t let her small size fool you; she’ll still try to outrun you anytime. Even though chances are she probably can’t.