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 5 key strength exercises training routine for runner  to see better performance and reduce the risk of injury

5 key strength exercises training routine for runner  to see better performance and reduce the risk of injury

If you have a passion for running but frequently find yourself sidelined by injuries, forcing frustrating breaks from your favorite activity, you may be overlooking a crucial aspect of your training. Regardless of your running experience, incorporating strength training can significantly reduce the risk of injuries.

Currently preparing for a marathon, I understand the time commitment that running demands, not to mention other forms of training. To address this, I’ve compiled a list of five essential exercises that have proven effective in preventing injuries and improving running efficiency. Teaming up with run coach Helen Gaunt, I present a comprehensive guide to these strength exercises for runners, complete with instructions on proper execution and their targeted muscle groups.

While weights are not mandatory, they can enhance your strength gains. Personally, I blend bodyweight exercises, barbell workouts, and free weights into my training regimen, with a particular fondness for kettlebell exercises. The inclusion of kettlebells in the exercises below stems from their ability to engage multiple joints, mirroring the natural movements involved in running, such as hip hinges, lunges, and squats.

As a general rule, target a range of eight to twelve repetitions for each exercise, and completing two to three sets should suffice. For single-leg exercises, ensure that you perform the total number of reps on each leg.

Keep in mind, the goal is not to become Mr. Muscle, but rather to develop stronger and more resilient muscles specifically for running. Emphasize the importance of maintaining proper form and focusing on the quality of your exercises over the sheer volume of weight. Neglecting form in favor of heavier weights may lead to challenging and painful delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) during your runs.

1. Kettlebell single leg deadlifts

Single-Leg Deadlift — What Are its Benefits & Some Variations to Try – DMoose

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, grasping a kettlebell in your right hand. Transfer your weight to your left foot and gently bend the knee.
  • Gradually lean forward at your hips, extending your right leg straight behind you. Lower the kettlebell toward the ground while maintaining a flat back and lifted chest.
  • Continue lowering the kettlebell until your torso is parallel to the ground or you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Activate your left glute and hamstring to return to the initial position, emphasizing a squeeze in your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • Complete the desired number of repetitions on one leg before transitioning to the other side.

According to Gaunt, this exercise enhances single-leg stability, contributing to a more streamlined running motion for improved efficiency. The single-leg deadlift promotes muscle development for enhanced strength and power, beneficial for speed work and hill running. Gaunt emphasizes the use of kettlebell free weights, noting their ability to strengthen the core and upper body, all of which play a role in enhancing running efficiency.

2. Kettlebell hip marches

Kettlebell Bottoms Up March by Alonzo Brown - Exercise How-to - Skimble

  • Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Securely loop the kettlebell handle over one foot, ensuring a firm attachment.
  • Lift the leg with the kettlebell looped over the foot, bringing the knee up toward your chest while maintaining an upright torso.
  • Now, lower the lifted leg back down to the ground in a controlled manner, tapping the toes on the ground before lifting it back up toward the chest. Repeat this movement for the desired number of repetitions.
  • Upon completing the set number of repetitions on one side, switch the kettlebell to the opposite foot and replicate the marching movement with the other leg.

According to Gaunt, “Kettlebell hip marches strengthen the glutes,” and placing weight on the hips intensifies loading on various leg muscles, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. To enhance the exercise, she suggests marching on the heels and incorporating a resistance band around the legs above the knees to isolate the glutes further.

Having personally incorporated kettlebell hip marches into my routine daily for a week last year, I also found this exercise to be highly effective in strengthening the hip flexors, a crucial muscle group for runners.

ALSO READ: How to utilize the L-sit hold for strengthening your core

3. Dumbbell reverse lunges

Lunge Variations: Reverse Lunge, Walking Lunges, Dumbbell Lunges

  • Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keep your shoulders relaxed and engage your core muscles.
  • Take a step backward with your right foot, landing on the ball of your right foot as you bend your right knee and lower your body toward the ground. Your left knee should be bent at a 90 degree angle, with your left thigh parallel to the ground.
  • Push through your left heel to return to the starting standing position. Use the muscles in your left leg and glutes to lift yourself back up.
  • Complete the desired number of reps on one side before switching to do the same number on the other side.

The reverse lunge targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings while also working on balance. It can be useful for those with knee issues as an alternative to forward lunges. Mimicking the motion of running by bringing the knee up and forward while lunging can help build strength for running.

4. Step-ups

Step up

  • Begin by standing in front of a sturdy bench or platform. If using weights, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand with arms at your sides.
  • Place your right foot firmly on the center of the bench. Push through your right heel and engage your right glute to lift your body up onto the bench.
  • At the top, extend your right leg by straightening your knee without locking it. Your left foot should remain lifted.
  • Lower your body back down by tapping your left foot on the ground beside the bench.
  • Complete the desired number of reps on one leg before switching to the other.

Forward step ups help promote knee lift and build muscle strength and power for running speed and hills, according to fitness expert Gaunt.

She also recommends incorporating step downs, stepping back off the bench, for eccentric loading – important for downhill running preparation.

Side steps up and down off the bench, one leg at a time, can strengthen hips and improve mobility, making you more robust for varied terrain in trail running.

5. Anterior tibialis raises

  • Stand with your back against a wall and place your feet 1-2 steps away from the wall.
  • Ensure you have a solid foot grip to prevent your feet from sliding.
  • Contract the muscles on the front of your thighs by drawing your kneecaps up toward your hips.
  • Lean slightly forward from your hips. Lift your toes as high as you can toward your shins, then lower back down. Repeat.

“Anterior tibialis raises are a simple yet powerful knee strengthening exercise to help reduce risk of shin splints,” explains fitness expert Gaunt.

Overall, the exercise builds calf muscle strength. Having strong calves and knees in turn reduces risk of issues up the kinetic chain like sciatic nerve pain in hamstrings, or problems in the hips, back and shoulders.

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