7 Exercises Every Runner Should Do
Many people will argue against adding strength training to a running program using the specificity of training principle - which states that to get better at something you must do that thing, makes sense right? People use this principle to argue that a runner shouldn’t lift weights because to get better at running they should run more. However, we know that everyone has a limit to how much they can and should run. It is impossible to continuously add on mileage without eventually reaching a limitation (time constraints, physical ability, sustaining an injury, etc...).
When you run your body sustains a 250% load when you run (1). Your muscles, tendons and ligaments must all be able to withstand that load. If they aren’t strong enough they will break. Strength training can supplement your running program and improve your overall strength and power, while decreasing your risk for injury, and increasing your running performance.
There is a common misconception that strength training will make you “bulky” and slow. The rationale behind this is that the heavier you are the more you have to carry with each step and stride. However, not all mass is created equal. Carrying around excess body fat is not helping any aspect of performance. You want to be as strong and powerful as you can at any given weight. With the demands of training, it’s uncommon for runners to put on much, if any weight. Let’s say you do gain a pound after having added in strength workouts to your training. The muscle mass you have gained will result in huge improvements when applying force down to the ground while running. The increased strength you have gained will directly impact stride length and a bigger spring is better and faster (1).
With that said, runners need a different program than a typical gym goer because our goals are different! Runners need a program that will improve power, postural control, rotational control, and whole body strength. The exercises in this article aim to do just that!
All of the exercises listed below are recommendations and not a prescription. Please modify the exercises as needed for your fitness level and abilities. Keep in mind that these exercises are recommended with the idea that a healthy individual will be performing them; if you are currently injured or have had previous injuries please consult with a personal trainer or physical therapist who can evaluate you and make necessary modifications to accommodate any limitations. We do not want you to get injured trying out these exercises!
- Split Squat
- Single Leg Deadlift
- Push Ups
- Bent Row
- Banded Marches
- Squat Jumps
- Plank Pull Through
These exercises were chosen to help build whole body strength and power, improve the spring in your step and improve your posture. As runners we primarily use our legs, but you will notice I threw in two upper body exercises. You might be asking why. It is important to maintain upper body strength as a runner because it translates over to our posture and postural control while running is important.
What Weights Do I Use?
Use as much weight as you can while maintaining proper form and posture.
The point of adding in strength training to a workout is for it to be supplementary to your running program and help prevent injury. We want to build a strong movement pattern under stress; that’s what will help improve your running. Never compromise your form for a lift. If you aren’t able to control your body through a movement that means it is time to drop the weight down or regress the exercise altogether.
If you aren’t sure what proper form looks or feels like I recommend working with a Personal Trainer. They can help you determine what proper form is for your individual biomechanics and the knowledge you gain from them is something you will have for a lifetime.
My recommendation is always to start with a lighter weight than you think you can complete the exercise with and then increase the weight after you have completed the movement with controlled and proper form. If any of the exercises cause you pain stop doing them and consult with a fitness professional.
Sets and Repetitions
If you take a look at the downloadable PDF each exercise will tell you how many sets and repetitions to complete for each exercise. In general you will want to complete higher repetitions with less sets and less weight. This will help to build muscular endurance and strength. Complete 1-3 sets of 8-20 repetitions for all the exercises. If an exercise is too easy for 2-3 sets of 20 repetitions, increase the weight you are using and decrease the reps back to 10 or 15, work your way back to 20 reps. Remember form is more important than the amount of weight you are moving
Sierra, Tunnel Marathons Personal Trainer