Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Whenever strength training is brought up I often hear “wait I am supposed to do more than just run?”. Supplementing your running program with strength training can help you prevent injuries, improve overall fitness, and make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.
Many people believe that runners shouldn't lift weights because it makes them "bulky" or because they believe that in order to get better at running you have to run more - which is true to an extent. There is only so much running an individual can do until you max out. At some point we all reach a limit where we simply cannot run more, whether it be due to a physical limitation or a time limitation, we all have a point. That's where strength training comes in handy. When you run your body withstands a 250% load; all of your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles have to be able to withstand that load over and over again with each step. Adding strength training into your runner routine can help to strengthen your whole body and better withstand the load it's put under when you are running. Lifting weights can improve bone density, increase your power, decrease your risk of injury, and result in improved performance.
Lets go back to the "too bulky" argument. It is logical to think that carrying around more weight while you are running is not ideal. The more weight you have to carry the harder you have to work. However, not all mass is created equal. Carrying around excess body fat will not do your performance any favors. Lets say you do gain a pound by adding weight lifting into your program (this is uncommon with runners because of the demands of training). That new pound of muscle is going to help your strength and power, two things we need when we run. The more power you have the quicker your stride can be.
But how do you know what exercises to do? How many sets and reps should you do? Check out the following 8 exercises for an idea of how to get started adding in strength training. 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!
If using weights hold a weight in each hand, arms extended by your sides, and rest the top of one foot behind you on a bench in a staggered stance.
Let the weights hang straight down as you perform a single leg squat.
Keep your trunk as vertical as possible and your shoulders backed and down along your ribs/back as you move down into the squat and return to standing.
Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions on each side.
Single Leg Deadlift
Stand on one leg, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
Bend forward, making sure that your back stays straight as you lower. Move from the hip not the spine.
Try holding a dowel along your head, mid back, and tailbone to practice keeping your body in alignment.
Push the pelvis forward to help activate your glute as your return to standing.
Repeat 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.
Place your hands on the floor with your thumbs pointing forward and fingers pointing out to help keep your shoulder blades flat. Start in a high plank position.
Slowly lower towards the floor into a push-up, but do not let elbows move too far past your torso. Keep your abdominals engaged and do not let your lower back drop towards the floor.
Return to start.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Follow the instructions above, except instead of a traditional high plank drop your knees to the ground and then perform the push-up.
This is a great alternative for those whose low back drops towards the ground during a tradition push-up or if your shoulder blades “wing” ( do not stay flat on your back).
Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand and letting them hang by your sides. Then with your feet hip width apart, slightly bend your knees and bend at the hips (do not bend in the spine). Let your arms hang by your knees.
Make sure your shoulders do not droop forward, keep tension between your shoulder blades.
Bring your elbows back - rowing up towards your waist and bringing the weights to about hip height.
Return to the starting position.
Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps.
Place a band around your feet. Lift one knee as high as you can towards the ceiling.
Lower back to the starting position as slowly as you can.
Repeat 2 sets of 15 reps.
Start with feet shoulder width apart and feet slightly turned outward.
Hinge at the hips and quickly lower to the ground and shoot back up into a jump.
Try to land softly.
Return to start position.
Repeat 2 sets of 15 reps.
Plank Pull Through
Anchor a theraband or a cable a few inches to a foot away from the floor. Get into a plank position with arms straight out in front and the band or cable perpendicular to your body.
Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width. The closer together your feet the harder it is to keep your hips and low back still. The goal is to twist in the upper body not the low back or hips.
Support your body with the arm that is closest to the attachment site of the band. Reach your opposite hand under your chest to grab the band or cable.
Untwist your spine into a plank position, tucking the shoulder blade back along your back/ribs. And extend the arm holding the band to the side until it is straight.
Return to the starting position and repeat.
Repeat 20 reps on each side.
Start with one foot on a box or step.
Push yourself up so that you are standing tall on the box by squeezing your glute and sending your hips forward. Try not to push off the floor with your back foot.
Go slowly and control yourself on the way back to the starting position, do not let yourself plop to the ground.
If you have questions or are interested in working with me to reach your health and fitness goals head to our contact page and shoot me an email!