You’ve been lacing up and running more as each training session passes, but that new PB is as elusive as ever. Have you ever stopped to think there’s more to training for a run than just running itself?
Adding some strength training for your core, legs, and upper body into your routine will build muscle, making you a leaner and more powerful runner, with the added bonus of increasing your all round fitness. Luckily there are a few exercises that can be easily integrated into any runner’s training regime.
Focusing on your Rectus Abdominis or ‘abs’ while also working your oblique muscle group, the plank is perfect for increasing core strength. Begin by laying on your front. Next, prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure you keep your back straight and flat, with your shoulders directly above your elbows and your abdominal muscles feel slightly tight. If you aren’t feeling a tightness in the abs then try adjusting your position until you do. Hold the position for 45 seconds, gradually increasing this time as your core strengthens.
To increase the difficulty try holding the position using one arm for 45 seconds, before rocking onto the other for another 45 seconds.
Working your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core and shoulders - the overhead lunge is a great strength exercise for improving every aspect of a runner's physiological strength. Hold a pair of dumbbells, approximately 4kgs in weight, (or a weight that you are comfortable with), directly above your head, keeping your elbows locked and arms straight. Next, step forward with your right leg, lowering your body until your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. Repeat the process using your left leg and you’ve completed one repetition. Complete one set of 8 repetitions initially, increasing the number of sets as your strength increases.
If you’re struggling holding the dumbbells with straight arms, you can try holding the weights at shoulder height.
This exercise is great for improving core stability as well as hip and pelvis. Lie on your back with your arms spread out wide to your sides. Keep your legs together and your toes pointing up, then lift your legs to a 90 degree angle. Slowly lower your legs down to one side, and attempt to create a right angle to the side of your body. If you can’t make it all the way don’t force it, you’ll get there eventually. Slowly raise your legs and repeat the process on the other side in one fluid motion. Repeat the process 10 times.
If you are finding it difficult, you can attempt the exercise with your knees bent.
Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise strengthens your upper body, concentrating on your ‘pecs,’ deltoids and triceps. Your upper body strength can go a long way to improving your PB, it aids in maintaining stable running posture that can help you improve your speed.
Begin by laying on a bench with the weights held a shoulder width apart, with your arms straight in the air. Lower your right arm to the outside of your shoulder, then push it back up to the starting position. Repeat the process with your left arm. Repeat 8 repetitions on each side, and as you increase in strength you may increase the amount of sets you complete. Do not increase the weight as it may cause you to bulk.
If you suffer from shin splits it may be because you have weak anterior tibialis muscles. These are the long thin muscles that run along the shin. By strengthening this muscle you can dramatically decrease your risk of injury. Begin the exercise by leaning against a wall. Your feet should be placed around 12 inches away from the wall and only slightly apart. The next stage is to lift the front of your feet off the ground so that you are literally rocking on your heels. You should feel a tightening in your shins. Lower your feet and repeat 10 times.
One Legged Deadlift
A long run can put a lot of strain on your legs. The one legged deadlift focuses on building muscle strength in the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus, the three muscle groups that make up the hamstrings. Begin by holding a 4kg dumbbell in both hands. Putting all your weight on one foot, lean your torso forward keeping your back straight at all times. While engaging in this motion allow your hands to hang down in front of you and raise your right leg behind you - also keeping it straight at all times, creating a cantilever effect. Slowly return your body to its starting position by reversing the motion. Repeat 8 times. To increase the difficulty try to keep the foot of the moving leg off the floor during your repetitions.
As the name suggest the glute bridge is excellent for strengthening your glutes while also working your hamstrings. Increased strength in these areas allow you to gain more power and ultimately, speed, during the course of your run. Beginning by laying flat on your back, bend your knees to a 90 degree angle, keeping your feet close together and flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes together and raise your hips, creating a straight line from your knees to your neck. Hold the position for 10 seconds, constantly squeezing your glutes to give your lower back support. Return to the start position. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Simple but very effective. Squats help build strength in your quads and glutes, while also engaging your core. Stand with your feet at shoulder width and slightly turn your toes outward, this will grant you more balance for when you lower your body. When you feel comfortable and stable, slowly lower yourself to the floor. Keep your arms out in front of you for balance, with your back straight and eyes looking forwards. Make sure you don’t lift your heels off the floor. When you reach the lowest point you can, push upwards slowly until you reach your starting position.
Your arms are as important as your legs in the quest for a new PB, and push ups are possibly the most basic method of strengthening them. Engaging in this exercise will increase the muscle dexterity within your shoulders, biceps and your pecs. Start by laying on your front with your palms by your side. Use your hands and toes to bear your weight. Your back should be rigid, with your abdominal muscles tightening to support your position. Ensure there is no arcing in your back. Push up until your arms are fully extended. Then lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat the process 10 times.
If you find this position difficult, try placing your knees on the floor, placing your hands further forwards creating a diagonal motion during your push up. If you begin to find the regular push ups too easy, try elevating your feet.
Squat Thrust Climbers
A functional and effective way to improve your core stability. You’ll need to keep your trunk stable while moving your legs, the same motion as when you are running, except in this exercise you won’t be going anywhere.
Begin from a squatting position with your hands flat on the floor in front of you a shoulder width apart. Throw your legs back so that you assume the push up position. Bring your right knee up to your chest as high as it will go, before lowering to the start position. Repeat the process on your left side. This constitutes 1 repetition. Continue for 10 repetitions.