Newsflash! My super-knowledgeable and talented brother, Daniel, happens to be a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with a background in exercise science and experience in strength training & rehab. Daniel’s been my go-to fitness guru whenever I’ve experienced mild running injuries, had questions about strength exercises, or been utterly confused by a gym machine that must be a torture device. Fortunately for you & me, Daniel has agreed to write content for Always Running Latte, keeping us in the know about these topics and more! Read his first post below, and don’t forget to check him out at Breakout Strength!
Thank you to Jackie for allowing me to write an article for Always Running Latte. I hope to do these more in the future.
Marathon and other long distance runners compete in races for one main reason: they love to run. When an athlete circles the date on the calendar for their next race, the planning begins. There are lots of running programs and apps available to help an athlete plan their training to peak perfectly for the next race. There is absolutely no denying that the best method of training for a race is, in fact, running. But what if there was another training modality that could be added to a runner’s program to help develop them into a better runner?
Strength training is a huge part of training for most Olympic sports. Any adult, whether a competitive athlete or not, can see huge health benefits from strength training. Strength training will certainly add an extra dimension to a runner’s training that may help better prepare them for their sport. I have compiled a list of 5 excellent strength training exercises for runners that can be done with little or no gym equipment. Keep in mind that these are in no particular order and this list is far from being exhaustive.
- Squat – Although the squat is one of the most basic strength training movements, it has so many benefits for both athletes and non-athletes. A properly performed squat develops anterior and posterior (front and back) strength in the lower body, hip/knee/ankle mobility, and core strength. Squats can simply be performed with one’s body weight, or an external load such as a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell can be added for increased intensity.
- Lunge Jumps – Lunge jumps are a plyometric/jumping exercise that builds unilateral (each leg is working independent of the other leg) leg strength/speed/power with an increased demand on body control and postural strength. While keeping a vertical spine, aim for maximum height on each repetition.
- Forward to Backward Lunge – Like the lunge jumps, forward to backward lunges require lots of body control and core strength. Adding unilateral movements to your program can help create joint stability through the hip, knee and ankle while potentially evening out any strength or postural imbalances that may develop from running or other daily activities. For increased difficulty, try to keep the working leg off the ground while transitioning from the forward to the backward lunge. This will help increase the demands on your balance and stability.
- Pull up/Row – Yeah, yeah I know.. you’re a runner and your legs do all the work, but bear with me. For sprinting purposes, increased upper body strength will help an athlete use their arms for propulsion during the different sprinting phases. This instance may not be as applicable for long distance runners, but there is a different application. Increased upper body strength, specifically in the posterior aspect, may help maintain good posture through long training runs or races. Using an exercises such as a pull up or a row variation can develop that posterior strength that will keep your shoulders and spine in check during those last couple of miles.
- Plank – I have planks on the list for reasons mimicking why I have pull ups on the list. One of most important ways a runner becomes better is by increasing their running efficiency. Naturally throughout a run, running efficiency may decline because of systemic fatigue. If your core is weak and becomes fatigued during a run, your posture through the whole kinetic chain can be disrupted, leading to a less efficient stride. Decreasing your mechanical efficiency puts extra stress on your biomechanical systems. Planks can be advanced in many ways such as adding instability with an exercise ball, adding an external load, or having periods where the body is not supported on all four limbs.
Like I said, this is a non-exhaustive list of strength training exercises that a runner should be adding to their program. My goal is to periodically share with the audience different exercises or tips that can be beneficial to runners. Keep an eye out for videos to accompany this list soon!
Daniel Kocotas, CSCS