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Turbocharge Your Strides With These Strength-Training Exercises for Runners

Turbocharge Your Strides With These Strength-Training Exercises for Runners

If you want to be a better runner, you log lots and lots of miles, right? Well… yes and no. Even though your first love may be the open road or trail, an often overlooked aspect to becoming a better runner is strength training.

So let’s talk about why it's such a game-changer, as well as the best exercises for both beginner and advanced runners, to help you become the super-runner you were born to be. Get ready to set a new PR!

Woman squatting

Why Runners Need to Strength Train

Running is incredible for cardiovascular fitness, but it's not enough to make you a well-rounded athlete. Strength training isn't just an option; it's a necessity for runners. Here's why:

  1. Injury Prevention: Research, such as a January 2023 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, has shown that strength training significantly reduces the risk of running-related injuries (potentially up to 85%!). By strengthening your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, you become more resilient to the wear and tear of pounding the pavement.
  2. Improved Running Economy: A January 2017 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who incorporated strength training into their routines enhanced their running economy. Translation? You'll use less energy to run at a given pace, making you more efficient and able to go longer distances.
  3. Enhanced Speed and Power: Want to shave seconds off your personal bests? Strength training is the perfect complement to speed work. A December 2017 review in Sports Medicine found that in several studies, sprint speed was improved, suggesting it may just boost your last push to the finish line.
  4. Better Posture and Form: Stronger core muscles, developed through strength training, can significantly improve your running posture and form. This not only boosts efficiency but also helps prevent the dreaded late-race slouch.

The Best Strength-Training Exercises for Runners

Now the good stuff! Below are six strength-training exercises that can help make you a better runner. Add them to your existing workout routine, perform them all in a single workout, or use them to prep for Fit Body’s Run Strong program with Alyssa Lombardi, certified personal trainer and running coach.

Beginner Exercises

1. Squat

  1. Stand with your feet between shoulder- and hip-width apart.
  2. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and bending your knees to lower your body as if you were sitting back onto a chair.
  3. Keep your chest up and back straight, ensuring your knees don't go beyond your toes.
  4. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below.
  5. Push through your heels to return to the starting position.

2. Plank

  1. Start on all fours with your elbows under your shoulders and knees under your hips
  2. Press through your hands and straighten your legs to lift into a push-up position with your forearms on the ground, forming a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually increasing the time as you get stronger.

3. Lunge

  1. Stand tall with your feet a few inches apart.
  2. Take a step forward with one leg and lower your body until both knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Ensure your front knee doesn't go beyond your toes and your back knee hovers slightly above the ground.
  4. Push through your front heel to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

Advanced Exercises

1. Deadlift

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  3. Hinge at your hips by pushing them back while keeping your spine neutral. Think about using your butt to close a door behind you.
  4. Lower your upper body until it's nearly parallel to the ground, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. The weights should stop at about the middle of your shins.
  5. Engage your glutes and hamstrings to return to standing.

2. Kettlebell Swing

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and the kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Bend at the hips to grab the kettlebell handle with both hands, keeping your back straight and chest up.
  3. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs, then powerfully thrust your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to chest level.
  4. Let the kettlebell swing back down and repeat. Make sure your abs are engaged the entire time to protect your lower back.

3. Single-Leg Squat

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, shifting your weight onto your right leg.
  2. Extend your left leg out in front of you, knee straight, foot flexed.
  3. Bend your right knee and lower your butt as far as you can while keeping your balance. It helps to extend your arms out straight in front of you for stability.
  4. Press through your right foot and return to the starting position.

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