Written By Rich Hill
Running is the simplest and easiest form of exercise for the majority of the population. It’s a great way to keep our heart, lungs, and circulatory system operating at a high function. This helps us ward off preventable illnesses like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (among other things). Our aerobic ability has also been linked to our longevity and better overall health.
While running will keep up our cardiovascular conditioning, long term we need to look at supplementing our run training with strength training. Adding strength training into our workout routine will help us build more muscle, strength, and endurance to be able to run faster for longer. Not only will strength training help our performance, but it can help keep the tissues of our body strong and reduce aches, pains, and potential injuries from occurring while running.
Unfortunately, running can be quite hard on the body. Firstly, the repetitive movement can create muscular imbalances in the body that can lead to nagging pains like shin splints, groin strains, and lower back pain. These pains can be exacerbated when factoring in the repetitive impact the hips, knees, and ankles take on every run.
Secondly, running is a catabolic exercise – meaning that it will breakdown tissue in the body. While that might sound great if we are breaking down body fat, it’s less so if we are breaking down muscle too.
To combat this, strength training helps build up muscle tissue in the body (anabolic) and can help us prevent muscle loss through other exercise. Heavy, slow strength training has also been shown to help with tendon strength, which can help us have more resilience as we run (less pain, yay!). Strength training also allows us to target the weak links in our body that might not get as much work while we run.
While there are plenty of exercises that can greatly benefit runners to include in their training, I’ve picked 6 key exercises that pretty much every runner should be doing regularly.
This exercise helps strengthen our Anterior Tibialis, which is directly responsible for shin splints if it’s under trained. Keeping this muscle strong will be important as you run, particularly for trail runners.
One of the most important muscles for our ability to run is the calf. This muscle is vital for our ability to press off our foot, making it important to train for both strength and endurance. Because our calf muscle gets worked so frequently, it’s important to use high volume to challenge the muscles to adapt. Perform both the seated and standing version of the exercise to hit all aspects of the calf.
Running is performed on each leg moving separately, but often times we train on both feet at the same time. By training each leg individually it allows for our hips to move more freely as we run. Lunges are a great exercise to help strengthen throughout the leg and glute, while also helping develop our core and balance. Work from a stationary position and as you progress, add in movement – either forwards or backwards.
Single Leg DL
Like the lunge, the Single Leg Deadlift allows us to work the hip separately from each other. While lunges are predominately focusing on the quads and front of the leg, the single leg deadlift will focus on the back of the leg with the hamstrings and glutes.
Because we are moving so much with our leg either in-front or behind us, it’s important to work our muscles side to side as well. As mentioned, if we develop muscular imbalances that can spell big problems our ability to stay pain-free. By performing the Cossack squat, we strengthen the adductor muscles of our groin. This can lead to less pulls and injuries as we go
While it’s a bodyweight exercise, this one is great for developing strengthen the adductors, adductors, and core muscles. While this is an isometric exercise (no movement) it can be highly beneficial to improving our hip and core strength targeting areas that are typically underdeveloped in most runners.
Runners should absolutely focus the majority of their training on actually running. However, most runners would benefit from adding in at least two strength training sessions in on a weekly basis. Not only will their bodies thank them, but they’ll be able to hit new records in no time.