Whether you’ve lost track of how many half marathons you’ve done or you’ve caught the running bug with this Spring weather, strength training can help you improve as a runner! Every runner can benefit from incorporating strength training into their routine, and your body and running performance will thank you!
Benefits of Strength Training for Runners
Strength training can improve your speed and endurance, so whether you’re squeezing in two miles before you make dinner or you’re prepping to win a race, lifting weights can enhance your performance. Running alone has a rocky relationship with weight loss, and strength training can be the metabolism boost you need to help smooth out that path and help you see consistent results.
Strength work is vital in preventing injury. Many runners have muscle imbalances, and if these aren’t addressed they can cause damage. Fixing these imbalances can also reduce any pain you experience during or after running, depending on the source. If you’ve ever had to take a break from something you love or a goal you’re working towards because of an injury, then you know the accompanying frustration and discouragement. Adding strength training into your routine can help keep you injury free.
What Muscles Do Runners Need To Strengthen?
Honestly, I’m a big fan of always working the entire body. I’m not sure your biceps and triceps help you run fast 😉 but I personally have never been a fan of completely ignoring muscles. That being said, there are definitely exercises that you should focus your time and effort on, since they are directly linked with running and/or common imbalances. Your legs, glutes, back, and abs are especially important.
Single-leg exercises are effective at preventing or correcting muscle imbalances. Since running is a repetitive movement, your abductors tend to be neglected; focusing on the outside of your legs and glutes will help prevent injury.
Sometimes pain and injury come from tight muscles or trigger points. Foam rolling and stretching your calves and sore muscles can prevent pain and improve flexibility. This is barely scraping the surface of common imbalances or injuries and what runners should be doing- but you get the idea! The list below is absolutely not exhaustive, but it is a great place to start.
Best 10 Exercises Every Runner Should Be Doing
These all can be done at home; all you need is a pair of dumbbells. I don’t have a vendetta against machines, but I would almost always recommend free weights over machines for athletes! These are photos taken from my instructional videos, so if you need more instruction or demonstration I’ve got your back
The Why: This deadlift variation will strengthen your back to help your running form and endurance, and will increase your leg strength for power and speed. It also targets muscles that are prone to injury.
The How: (Straight-legged variety) Stand up tall, feet hip-width apart, with your dumbbells facing your thighs. Hinge at your hips (throw your butt back before you bend over), keep a slight bend in your knees, and slowly lower your dumbbells along your legs until your back is parallel with the ground. Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes and the back of your legs to come back up. Keep your core engaged and back straight (your natural curve, no hunching or arching) the entire movement.
Dumbbell Rows with Squat Hold
The Why: This combo move targets your upper back and lats, but will challenge the endurance of your legs and strengthen your core and lower back! Perfect for running form and improved performance.
The How: Start with your feet hip-width apart; hinge your hips (throw your butt back) and drop down into a partial squat- go down as far as you can hold it with good form. With a dumbbell in each hand and your arms out in front of you, squeeze your back to bring your dumbbells up to your chest, pause, and lower them to the starting position. Keep your core tight and don’t allow yourself to slouch, and don’t let your knees go over your toes while holding the squat.