Runners Strength Training Guide

Strength Training For Runners

For those of you who are looking to improve performance, you must be more specific. Performance gains will be achieved when the strength training you do closely mimics the movements you make when you are competing in the marathon race. In other words, if your strength training is more specific you will see greater impact from that training on your running performances. One more benefit of a more specific strength training is a greater probability that physiological gains produced by training will actually be more beneficial in your races.

For us marathon runners this is especially crucial. Let's look at 5K runners training: a 5K runner conducting 5-minute intervals at his projected 5K race pace would seem far more beneficial that running slower for a longer time. A 10K runner doing 10-minute intervals at race pace will actually improve his 10K more than he would if he ran 30-minute tempo runs at any speed slower than his 10K race velocity.

Some strength training studies have shown that when an isometric training of the arm muscles is performed at a joint angle of 160 degrees, the improvements only appear at that specific angle. Though exactly the same muscles were used, improvements at a 60 degree angle were almost none.

The same is observed when strength training is performed at a slow velocity with very heavy weights. Training for strength in this way results in poor performance when lifting moderate weight at higher velocities. Conversely, athletes training with light weights at great velocities would have reduced capacity to lift heavy weights at a slow speed.

Training with heavy weights at slow velocities will not improve speed, power,nor endurance. Explosive exercises where the athlete trains to improve reaction time might improve explosive force but not overall strength, speed, nor their endurance.

From strength training to running

Now, we need to take a look at how to transfer some of the improvements we gained from our strength training to running. A lot of runners (and other athletes as well) visit the gym and perform the most common and basic exercises such as squads, bench presses, leg extensions, leg flexions, abdominal crunches, biceps curls, calf raises, etc. Results from various studies showed an improvement in general strength and muscle toning. This general strength is good for preventing injuries, however, these standard work-outs didn't improve running.

In a nut shell, biceps curls give you bigger biceps muscles, push-ups give you more impressive pectorals, abdominal crunches give you a very sexy six-pack which might look good when you're out on the beach. Doing a lot of squats would help you prepare for a squatting contest, but none of these would actually make you a faster runner or give you more stamina.

It is therefore that we suggest runners to perform more specific strength training exercises which mimic more closely the muscular patterns associated with running. We recommend strength training exercises such as one-leg-hops, high-bench step-ups, and one-leg squads because these mimic the muscle mechanics and overall body posture of a runner. After becoming better at these specific strength exercises, you can move on to improving horizontal muscular force by doing exercises like wearing a weight vest while running, doing hill repetitions, and your favorite form of high-speed bounding.

What should you do?

Various studies have shown that specific strength training can improve running economy, and reduce the risk of injury by making supporting muscles stronger, this all helps you to train harder and longer with the final result of running faster races.

Marathon runners should just try to avoid the popular gym work-outs which do not improve running posture nor the neuromuscular patterns employed while running and thus only waist our precious energy.

Improving horizontal power

Doing the runner specific strength training such as the one-leg squats, step-ups, and one-leg hops with the ultimate in horizontal-power-enhancement exertions. We have ranked the best of these strength training exercises from good to best.

  • Speed bounding, in which you bound along with longer than normal strides while attempting to maintain high speeds.
  • Running while wearing a weighted vest.
  • Hill training.
  • Hill training while wearing a weighted vest.

For most runners who are already struggling to find time to train, it is recommended to follow these steps of improvement (one-leg squads, speed bounding, to running up a hill with a weighted vest) and the other exercises recommended on this page. Do not think you can skip the easy strength training and just start running with a weighted vest from tomorrow as that would line you up for injury undoubtedly. Build up slowly and get ready to record new personal best finish times.

Here are two strength excercises

Exercise 1: Stick or bar Lunges

Runners weight training for posture: This exercise is to improve strength and power to the lower-body muscles, and helps you to keep an upright posture while running. Stick or bar lunges also strengthen the hip abductors and adductors to stabilize the knee.

Set-Up: Find a lightweight bar or stick. Stand with good posture with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the stick behind your back lengthwise along your spine. Your top hand should have the thumb down, elbow bent and pointed toward ceiling. Your bottom hand should have the thumb up and against your lower back. The stick should gently touch the three points; the back of your head, the center of your back and your tailbone.

Move: Using the broomstick to help keep your upper body still and aligned, step forward with your left foot about one stride's length and bend both of your knees, left knee vertically aligned with left ankle, until your left thigh is parallel to the ground and your right thigh is perpendicular to it, heel lifted. Don't let your knees move further than your toes. Stand back up to the start, again using the stick to help stabilize your upper body. Continue alternating left and right to complete 15 to 20 repetitions to complete 3 sets.

Exercise 2: Bench Stand-ups

Runners strength training for improved forward motion: Bench stand-ups develop strong and balanced glutes and hamstrings in order to support the body's forward motion during running and to take some of the pressure off the quads. Bench stand-ups also use the hip abductors and adductors to help keep your body stable. Also improving knee tracking and control, which is an important issue for runners.

Set-Up: Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight on top of a knee-high (stable) object or flat bench. Start with your left leg straight so that it hangs a few inches off the bench. Relax your arms down at your sides, palms facing in, and pull your abdomen inward.

Move: Keeping your back straight and your hips and shoulders square to the front, slightly bend your right knee so that your left leg drops toward the ground a few inches. Straighten your right leg again to return to the starting position. Move through the stand-ups quickly but with control. Always keep your right knee aligned with your second toe. Complete 15 repetitions, repeat with the rightleg, and continue alternating legs to complete 3 sets.

Here are some more strength exercises


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