As a runner, whether competitive or recreational, many people might think that strength training in the gym is unnecessary. After all, why would you need to lift weights if you’re out logging miles during the week?
As crazy as it may sound, adding in some extra gym time to focus on resistance training will not only make you a better runner it will also help you become stronger, and with strength comes speed. So, how do these two types of exercise correlate with one another? Essentially, the more force you apply to the ground while you’re running, the faster you are going to go. In order to boost the force that you’re applying each time your foot hits the ground, weight training needs to come into play. Weight lifting aids in muscle building, strength, and endurance, which in turn helps you handle the stress that your body is being put through as you log your miles on the pavement.
The best part about it? You don’t even have to be a weight training pro in order to increase your muscle mass and strength base! There are simple moves that you can incorporate 1-2 days a week that will help you build strength to improve those runs, as well as help to prevent injury!
Granted, you don’t need to focus on smaller muscle groups like triceps and biceps in order to improve your running. Instead, you want to find movements that will focus on functional movements and one that will work your core and larger muscles (think planks, squats, and pushups). Let’s look at five strength-building exercises that are perfect for becoming a better runner!
With walking lunges, your form is key, mainly because it mimics the same positioning as if you were running. From a standing position, place one foot out in front of you and bring your back knee down towards the floor, you should have both knees at 90-degree angles. Pushing through the heel of your front foot, drive yourself back up to a standing position and repeat with the opposite leg, squeezing through your glutes on the way up.
A multifunctional movement, squats are perfect for building power for your runs. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, sit your hips down and back, as if you were going to sit on a chair. Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the ground, keeping the chest high and core tight. From here, push through your heels to return to a standing position. This can be modified to be just bodyweight, or you can slowly add some weight for added resistance.
Another move to boost power (and subsequently, more speed on your runs), box jumps can be modified for every jumping level! Standing shoulder-width apart, face your box or a stack of gym mats, and bend into a quarter squat. From here, jump onto the box with a soft landing and stand with hips fully extended. Then, step back down carefully, and repeat. The box height can increase as you get stronger and more comfortable with the jump!
Begin this core strengthening movement down on the floor, with elbows and forearms on the floor. Step back into a plank position (similar to a pushup), and make sure your head is in line with your spine with shoulders down and back. Ensuring that your hips don’t rise or fall out of the neutral line, hold this position for up to a minute – although starting off with 15-20 seconds is okay too! As your core strength builds, so will the length of time that you can hold this position.
A stellar explosive movement to help build power and speed, tuck jumps can actually increase how quickly you hit the ground while running – and therefore helping you run faster. Start this exercise by standing shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms back and sit down into a half squat, then drive your knees up towards your chest while jumping. The trick here is to quickly drive your knees back up through multiple reps, as soon as your feet hit the floor! Start with 5-10 reps, then build from there.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of strength exercises that can be done; however, these are a few fantastic exercises that can be used as a starting point for those needing to add in a couple of days of resistance work in order to boost running abilities and strengthen you overall as a runner! Try and incorporate these exercises at least 1-2 days a week, and you’ll soon notice an improvement in not only your running speed, but your balance, coordination, and strength as well!