Essential Exercise to Improve Running

When it comes to improving running performance, runners usually fall into one of two camps:

1. Those who just run more

2. Those who prioritize strength training

Although it may seem intuitive to improve your running by just adding more miles to your weekly volume, but adding a srtuctured strength program to your training will reap dividends far grater than running more.

Strength Training Is a Critical Component

Unfortunately, many runners make the mistake of disregarding strength training despite the undeniable advantages of incorporating this kind of training into their running program.

Strength training is a critical component for any powerful, successful runner as it helps with:

This single tool—strength training, can help you get faster, prevent injury, and run more efficiently. No runner wants to get injured or sidelined, or even worse, have to stop running altogether.

Consider how many runners will get hurt this year.

Depending on the source, 35-80% of runners will get injured every single year.

The majority of runners take fitness classes, such as body pump, boot camps, or CrossFit. However, the problem with these fitness classes is they do not personalize the training for you or develop the necessary speed and power for running. Plus, you’ll be more likely to hurt yourself.

The best strength training for runners should have two characteristics:

1. It should prevent injuries by focusing on core stability, hip mobility, and lower body strength.

2. It should include compound, multi-joint movements like the 6 primal movements (squats, hinges, lunges pushes, pulls, and loaded carries).

Here are the five best strength exercises for runners to routinely include in their training regimen.

You cannot go wrong with these.

1. Deadlifts

The deadlift is a hip-hinge movement, and is one of the most effective exercises for runners as the deadlift primarliy targets the posterior chain (the muscles on the back of the body) which propel you forward.

In addition, deadlifts will strengthen your glutes and hamstrings to help avoid knee pain.

Most knee pain results from being too quad dominant, meaning your glutes aren’t doing their job, causing your quads to work overtime.

2. Lunges

Lunges are one of the best exercises any endurance athlete can do as it closely mimics the actual running motion.

Running is a predominantly unilateral movement, meaning you’re using just one limb at a time, so it makes sense to prioritize single-leg strength. In addition, lungess will help identify any unilateral weakness that can lead to running injuries.

3. Banded Glute Bridges

So far, all the exercises listed are big compound, multi-joint exercises. However, runners can benefit from isolation work as well, especially to reduce knee pain.

Strong hip muscles are essential for efficient running and injury prevention. The banded glute bridge works by directly targeting the smaller glute muscles that help stabilize and prevent your knee from collapsing inward while running.

4. Bird Dogs

Having a strong, stable core is an underrated aspect of running.

Your core muscles keep your torso upright and reduce wobbling during running. The wobble is also known as an energy leak, meaning you're wasting precious energy and opening yourself up for potential injuries.

Bird Dogs not only help stabilize your core, but thay also strengthen the posterior sling system which helps create an effeicient running strde.

5. Planks

Along with bird dogs, planks will strengthen your torso and create more stability for your spine as you run. One of the more common injuries for runners is low back pain. Strengthening your core can help to alleviate this.

A sample workout for runners:

Perform 2-3 sets of each superset:

1a. KB Deadlift x 12 reps

1b. Planks x :30

2a. Alternating Lunges x 6 reps/leg

2b. Bird Dogs x 10 reps/side

3. Banded Glute Bridge x 10 reps

Putting Everything Together

When it comes to weight training for runners, there are three primary goals:

  • Injury Prevention: To toughen the connective tissues and strengthen the muscles to improve injury resilience.

  • Muscular Power: To produce force quickly so you can run faster and finish strong with a fast-finishing kick.

  • Neuromuscular Coordination: To improve the communication pathways between the brain and muscles for a higher running economy, efficiency, and a smooth stride

Strength training provides runners the best cross-training possible for improving performance and preventing injuries. With stronger muscles, connective tissues, joints, and more resilience to fatigue, you’ll be able to create more force, control your stride and landing while improving the running economy.

That will help you get injured less often while being stronger and faster simultaneously.

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