Many runners don’t realize that their workouts need to consist of more than just running. While running is a great cardiovascular exercise, pure cardio without strength training can increase your risk of injury. Research shows that runners who include strength workouts in their routine also outperform those who purely focus on cardio and endurance training.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate strength training into your workout regimen, keep reading. Listed below are four great exercises that every runner (and everybody in general) should be doing regularly.
Four Strength Exercises Every Runner Should be Doing
Planks are great for strengthening the entire core (all the muscles from your sternum to your glutes). A strong core will help stabilize you during your runs. This stability, in turn, will minimize the amount of energy you have to expend, so you’ll be able to run longer without getting tired as easily.
There are several different variations of planks, but the most basic is the forearm version.
Start in a push-up position, then lower yourself onto your elbows, making sure they stay shoulder-distance apart. Your feet should be slightly separated and your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Make sure your abs are pulled in and your shoulders are stacked on top of the elbows.
Hold this position for 45 seconds to start with, and aim for 3-5 repetitions. Over time, you can increase the duration of the hold as your core gets stronger.
2. Back Extensions
Back extensions are another great core strengthening exercise, particularly for those who want to target their glutes and lower back.
Strengthening these muscles will improve your stability while also helping you avoid knee and leg injuries. Weakness in the lower back and glutes, when left unchecked, can lead to improper gait patterns that cause issues over time.
To do a back extension, lie facedown on a yoga ball with your feet spread wide. You can even put them against the wall for extra stability. Bend your elbows and place your hands lightly on the ground.
Once you feel steady, squeeze your glutes and lift your upper body off the ball until it forms a straight line. As you’re lifting, cross your arms over your chest. Hold the top position for 1-2 seconds, then release your torso back down.
Do 3-5 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
3. Squat To Overhead Press
The squat to overhead press is a great full-body exercise that works the glutes, hamstrings, quads, low back, shoulders, and upper back — basically all the muscles you need to strengthen to be a competent distance runner.
To do this exercise properly, hold a dumbbell in each hand, starting with your hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and lower yourself into a squat, pushing your hips back until your thighs are parallel to the ground or lower. Stand back up and, when you reach the top, press the dumbbells over your head before returning to the beginning position.
If this is too complicated for you, try using lighter weights, or just do the squat and keep the dumbbells at your chest.
If you want to make it more challenging, try wrapping resistance loop bands around your upper thighs. This will also help you avoid knee valgus (going knock-kneed) when you stand up from your squat.
Do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.
4. Overhead Walking Lunge
Walking lunges help strengthen the leg muscles, and holding weights overhead while you do them challenges your core and strengthens the shoulders.
Hold a pair of dumbbells or a weighted plate above your head with your arms straight. Then, step forward with your right leg and lower yourself into a lunge position, with the knees forming 90-degree angles and the back knee hovering just off the floor. Return to the standing position, then repeat with your left leg in front.
Aim for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg.
If you’re not incorporating strength training into your routine, you’re doing yourself a disservice as a runner. Start doing these exercises 2-3 times per week to become a stronger, more balanced athlete.
About the Author
Nurse Susan has always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion didn’t go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.