If you don’t think that you need strength training to improve your performance – think again. Strength training can improve so many aspects of your run, including the efficiency in which your body uses oxygen and injury prevention.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of strength training on running in female runners. The groups were divided those who added running to their workout and those who did not. The group who added three days of strength training saw the greatest gains in their running economy.
The exercises don’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to have a fancy gym membership – these can be performed in the comfort of your home or a local park. Check out these 5 exercises:
- Squats. Squats are pure gold when it comes to strengthening your legs, but they must be done correctly in order to be effective and avoid causing harm. You can perform squats using just your body weight or holding dumbbells (see photo) or a barbell. If your knees bother you, try donkey kicks – they work just as well, but remember form matters – don’t arch your back and keep the weight in your heels, not your toes. You should feel the “burn” in your glutes, quads and hamstrings – NOT your back.
- Push-ups. Push-ups are one of the best upper-body exercises that you can shake-up for any level of athlete. A push-up works your core, your back and multiple muscles in your arms. Just make sure your core is tight and your spine is neutral, keeping your head and legs stable. You can perform push-ups on an incline (beginners), flat, decline, traveling, unstable and the list goes on and on – using various pieces of equipment to edit the experience.
- Pull-ups. It’s a bit challenging to find leverage for performing a pull-up at home, unless you have certain pieces of equipment (I recommend the TRX), but the local park is likely armed with monkey bars and other climbing apparatuses so you can perform a pull-up. Much like the push-up, the pull-up offers a dynamic upper body workout for your back, abs and shoulders and you can change the angle of your body to go from beginner to advanced.
- Kettlebell swing. This is one exercise that targets the areas weakest in most runners – the glutes and hamstrings. Kettlebells are now a staple in most gyms and you can find them at varying weight at sporting goods stores and discount retailers. Use with caution – using a weight too heavy or with improper form can seriously injure you. Check out this video on K.I.C. Fitness.com by founder and head trainer, Chad Cribbs: How-to perform a perfect Kettlebell swing.
- Plank with dumbbell row. Isometric exercises are the ultimate for strengthening the core. If you want to show off a svelte six-pack as you breeze by fellow runners on the path – perfect the plank, then add-on to make it more challenging. Here is an example of how-to do a plank with a dumbbell row from Active.com:
- Get into a plank or start of a push-up position, with both hands gripping dumbbells. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Contract your abdominal muscles to maintain a straight back.
- Row one dumbbell up towards the chest by bending at the elbow. Maintain a straight back throughout the move.
- Return the dumbbell to the ground and repeat on the other arm. This is one rep.
- Complete five sets of five reps at appropriate weight for your level.