This is part one of a small series on muscle building and strength for runners. Some of my short advice and tips for how I build muscle, to help prevent injury.
Runners need strong muscles and a strong core to help with their performance, and to help avoid injury. Muscle imbalances create injuries (trust me I know). I battled with a strained IT-band while training for my first Boston experience. It was 4 months of PT, correcting muscular imbalances and strengthening my knee and hips. If runners have weak gluteus medius (a muscle near the hip) another muscle overcompensates and pulls on the IT-band, which causes pain along the outside of the leg down to the knee. I have also battled runners knee and shin splints all through high school.
Many have asked what I do for strength and cross training, so this post offers a glimpse into my strength training regime. The following moves I try to incorporate on a regular basis in order to have a strong core, hips, and glutes. This is part one of the series. I will incorporate a separate post for core work.
You can perform all these exercises at home. All you need are some:
- bosu ball (optional)
- a yoga ball for only a couple exercises.
- resistant bands (for a few exercises)
Disclaimer: I am not a trained professional in personal training. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and merely recommendations. Please consult your doctor before beginning any type of fitness routine.
Exercises that all runners should do to help keep hips, glutes, quads, and calves strengthened:
Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise. You don’t have to do them every day or all in one day. I do strength training twice a week, mixing up exercises so I don’t get bored with them and so I can work all muscle groups.
- Squats (deep squats w/out weights, and standard squats w/ or w/out weights)
- Single leg squats (w/ or w/out bosu ball, the bosu ball offers more of a challenge, working more muscles) – This move improves balance. Stand on left leg. Lift right foot in front of you. Stand tall and keep left knee over ankle as you lower down into a squat. Reach hands forward for added balance. Push into heel to raise back up and repeat for 10-15 reps. Repeat on opposite leg. (You can add weight, by placing weight in one hand, holding above lifted foot, offering more of a challenge).
- Squats on bosu ball – helps to improve balance and engage more of your leg muscles, not just the quads but the hips as well. Flip bosu ball onto the ball part, and stand on the flat bottom. Might need to practice closer to a wall so you can catch yourself until you become more balanced. Perform squats as you would w/out the ball.
- Lunges (standing lunges, side lunges, traditional lunges, prisoner lunges, backward lunges) There’s many variations. —–Standing Lunges: come into lunge position with right foot forward, and left leg behind you. Squat down until back knee lightly touches the ground and pop back up, repeating for 10-15 reps, Switch sides.
Prisoner Lunges: Do a traditional lunge, but clasp hands behind head. Do 10-15 reps per side.
Backward Lunge: From standing position, instead of reaching right foot forward, reach it behind you bending until knee slightly touches the floor. Bring right leg back to starting position. Bring left leg behind you and bend. Alternate sides until you completed 20-30 reps.
- Squat Jumps – This is just a normal squat with an added jump at the top. It burns more calories with some added cardio and adds more of a burn. Perform a normal squat, with butt pushed out behind you, when returning to starting position, give a little jump reaching hands to sky. Upon landing jump, immediately return to squat position. 10-15 reps
- Clamshell – Lie on left side with knees and hips bent 45 degrees (close to fetal position). Rest head on left arm. Stack right leg on top of left leg, heels together. Keep feet together with the left leg on the floor, raise right knee as high as you can without heels coming apart. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides. For added challenge, elevate left leg off the floor a couple of inches. This helps build strength in the hips and lat’s.
- Side Lateral Leg raise – This works the lat’s, which are typically forgotten about in strength training for runners, as while as the hip flexors. Lie on left side, resting head on your left arm and right hand in front of chest on floor. Legs straight with right leg directly on top of left leg. Slowly raise you right leg without moving any other body parts. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch sides.
- Side Kick – This works your hamstrings, glutes, quads and hip flexors and engages your core. Lie on side with legs extended, with legs stacked. Take the top leg and raise to hip height, and swing it forward until it’s directly in front of the hips. Return to start. Keep torso still. Repeat for 10 -15 reps, then switch sides.
- Donkey kicks – From standing position, lean forward grabbing the edge of a table or chair, keeping hands shoulder width apart. Walk feet about 2-3 feet behind you, and lift right leg, bending at knee. Donkey kick up, keeping knee bent. Repeat for 10-15 reps and switch sides.
- Hip rotations – From same position as donkey kicks, raise right leg, bent at knee and bring it forward toward chest. Right heel at left leg’s knee height. With leg bent, extend right knee out towards the right. Repeat 10-15 time and switch legs. Can do this in an upright, standing position. This video shows you how.
- Band walk – Wrapping band around both feet, walk sideways, moving left foot out, as far as you can, then bring right foot to left foot. Repeating sequence for 20-30 feet. Return to start with right foot moving first. This move is great for the gluteus medius muscle.
- Single-Leg Deadlift – Stand on right leg, with left leg extended behind you in the air at hip level. Keep shoulders back and back straight, lean forward and reach hands toward ground and return back up. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch legs. Add weights for added challenge. This move will help with balance and again strengthen leg muscles.
- Bridge – Lie face up on floor, coming into crunch position with knees bent, feet flat on floor, hands at your sides. Lift hips off the floor and squeeze glutes, keeping knees bent and chest up, body forming a straight line. Bring hands underneath your torso, clasping hands. Hold position for 30 seconds, building up to a minute.
- Bridge abduction – Lie faceup on floor, knees bent and feet flat on floor, arms at your sides. Squeeze glutes and raise hips until body forms straight line (Bridge position). Extend right leg, and lower toward the ground with a light tap, bring back to center. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch sides. Keep hips raised through entire sequence.
Runners can’t forget their arms!! Our arms are often neglected and aren’t worked near as hard as our legs when running, but still serve an important purpose to our running. They keep our gait steady and posture in place. Here’s some upper body strengthening exercises:
Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise. I have a rotation of upper strength exercises I do twice a week. This is a short list.
- Pushups – I think we all understand how to perform a basic pushup. To make it easier, you can do a pushup on your knees, instead of fully extending legs.
- Bicep Curls – Stand with feet shoulder width apart. With 3-10 pound dumbbells (or whatever weight you feel comfortable with) in hands, palms facing out, curl arms toward chest. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Military Press – Sit on chair or bench. With weights in hands, arms by your sides, bend at elbows, palms facing forward. Extend arms up over head and lower back down to shoulder height. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
- Arm raises – Stand with fit shoulder width apart, arms with weights at your sides. Raise both arms to shoulder height and lower back down to sides. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
- Upright row – Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Grab weights in both hands and and bring arms to your side, palms facing back. Keeping back straight and shoulders still, lift arms up, bending at elbow in a rowing motion. Elbows shouldn’t raise above shoulders. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
- Reverse Fly – Come into a high lunge, with right foot forward, knee bent and left leg extended behind you. Rest right palm on right leg. With a weight in the left hand, extend arm out to the side, raising up to shoulder height (similar to arm raises, but in lunge position). Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.
Remember there are many more exercises, but these are some great basics to start with and will be beneficial to add to any running plan. Building muscle is important to running. You don’t want to bulk up, but you do want nice lean, and strong muscles.
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be Fit
What are your favorite strength moves for building a strong foundation for running?