Why is Strength Training for Runners Important?

Properly designed strength training for runners helps you to burn body fat, look and feel great and helps you to reach your running goals! Strength training makes you an overall stronger runner protecting you from being on the injury list and on a training program. More importantly, a good routine should help to maintain lean muscle mass and keep you running into old age.

What’s important in a runner’s strength training routine is that it serves to strengthen your supporting running muscles and compliment your running program rather than mimic it. In other words, running in itself works various leg muscles during your running workouts. Hill training for example is a beautiful workout that provides the resistance demand of your own body weight with every step on many of your running muscles. Thanks to gravity, the intensity can be increased or decreased adjusting your speed and by selecting different hills to run.

GET IT DONE!

Runners are not typically gyms rats, unless of course you are addicted to your local gym’s treadmill. However, there are three very important benefits to strength training that are also outlined in the weight training page. First, strength training for runners does not necessarily require weights. Second, there are all in one strength training moves that can hit all of your body and be completed in well under 20 minutes. Finally, strength training for runners can be performed any time of the year including during a running training program.

As mentioned before, time is your most precious commodity and Lord knows your weekly runs and weekend long runs already take up enough of that so to make the most of your time, follow a routine that works multiple body parts at the same time.

Below I’ve described the benefits and demonstrated the proper techniques for the various recommended movements.

TIME-SAVING STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS

The following 3 moves, I would argue are the absolute best use of your time. Put another way, if you do no other type of strength training, you won't be missing much if you perform this routine weekly. You are pushing, pulling and lunging - and hitting pretty much every body part you need to in the process.

CHIN-UPS (not pull ups)

Why?

Chin ups are gorgeous as they work so many different muscles at one time including:

  • Biceps
  • Back
  • Forearms
  • Abdominals
  • Shoulders

NICE!

Equipment Required

Pull up bar. If you are working out at home, you can purchase pull up bars that are very versatile and fit in most doorways. They are available in most department or wholesale stores and start at $19.99. Beware of the ones that require screwing into the wall for support – you may not be willing to do this kind of damage to your wall. Also, depending on your space, some bars only allow you to create a narrow grip. This can be particularly limiting if you have a wider frame. Try and find one that has extra grips in case you want to go wider. I have tried most if not all of them. I built my own pull up bar using gas piping.

Good Form

Stand under the chin up bar, palms facing towards you (see pic above), arms shoulder width apart reach up until your grip settles on the bar. If you’ve never done a chin up before, you can start by using a chair to assist you. Eventually over the weeks you’ll be able to do more and more without the chair – make sure you challenge your self!

PUSH-UPS

Why?

Push ups are also a very efficient upper body movement since they hit multiple body parts including:

  • Chest - primarily
  • Triceps
  • Forearms
  • Core - abs/lower back
  • - as long as you hold a nice plank
  • Shoulders

Equipment Required

Zilch. However, push up bars/handles are handy to save pressure on your wrists and to get a deeper push up. You can also use dumbbells in place of push up bars to achieve this effect, but make sure that they are hex dumbbells that won’t roll! Like pull up bars these can be found in many stores and are relatively inexpensive.

Good Form

Push ups can be achieved in variety of ways that all hit slightly different parts of your muscles. For example, close grips put more strain on your triceps and wider grips put more strain on your chest. Feet together in a plank works more of your core than feet wide apart. In all cases, look straight down at the floor, do not round out your back, and don’t push your butt up into the air.

JUMP LUNGES

Why?

Jump lunges are essentially ballistic, or moving lunges that typically only hit your glutes and quads but by introducing the jumping movement you're getting your hip flexors, feet, calves and hamstrings involved!

Equipment required None.

Good Form

Just like a regular lunge you want to make sure your knee never goes out past your toe, your thigh should be perpendicular to the floor. In this move, your back leg does not go straight out, but rather bends so that your knee lightly touches the floor. As with any plyometric movement, do your best to land softly, which not only protects your joints but engages more of your muscles that will need to stabilize and balance you.


LOOKING FOR MORE??

In addition to these specific suggestions, my friend Dan has put together an awesome list of of strength exercises that have proven very effective for him and his clients to stay off the running injury list over the years!

His exercises provide clear instructions for execution as well as accompanying pictures...who doesn't LOVE pictures ?

**You can check them out here: 

http://middleagemarathoner.com/category/injury-prevention/


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

One of the best ways to perform this 3 move routine, is in interval fashion. This gets your heart rate up, your workout over quicker and really rips through the calories. You would do this by performing each move for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second rest. The easiest way that I know of tracking this is by using a GYMBOSS. These are very simple to use and quite inexpensive.

You can program the 20 seconds followed by 10 second recoveries as well as how many sets you'd like to do. You'll find that a total time of 15 minutes doing this routine will feel like PLENTY...at first. I've also used mine at the track on occasions for Tabata intervals (20 second sprints all out, 10 second recoveries) since my regular heart rate monitor will only count down even splits. You'll be very surprised at how motivating, and ruthless, this little unit is!

Running Muscles!

In addition to running hills, here are some other various workouts that I recommend you perform to target and strengthen your primary running muscles:

  • Leg Lifts – hanging from a pull up bar
  • In and outs & bicycles
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Wall Squats
  • Prayer Squats
  • Side lunges
  • Superman/banana
  • Skipping or One leg hops
  • Phantom Chair
  • Mason twist dumbbell

Hopefully, this information will help you to look at the idea of strength training for runners in an entirely different light. If you try the above routine I'm confident you'll see and feel for yourself how short and effective these workouts are, and perhaps be less apprehensive to squeeze them into your busy running schedule.

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