I firmly believe that ALL runners benefit from doing regular strength work. Before you freak out – this doesn’t mean you need a gym membership OR a complicated program that takes you a lot of time!
A simple program with basic total body strengthening is great! But there are certain exercises I recommend to nearly ALL of my running clients. Of course there are always going to be exceptions to the rule (individual weaknesses and imbalances need to be considered), but as a general rule of thumb these are the exercises that I’ve found translate into strong runners who tend to avoid injury.
As you explore different strategies for strength (whether it’s an online class, videos or just layering in a few strength exercises in the idle moments in your day) keep these exercises in mind!

5 Exercises to Include in your Strength Program:

  1. Lunges: Strong legs = strong runners (obviously), but this is even MORE important because lunges help to strengthen the medial quad/ thigh muscle. This part of the quadriceps group (thigh muscle) is traditionally weak in runners. If your medial quad is weak (in relation to the middle and lateral quads) this effects how the quadriceps fire and can cause a tracking issue through the knee (and result in knee pain).
  2. Squats: Again, this seems somewhat obvious because runners need strong legs, but we specifically should be squatting because squats help strengthen glutes. Again, these are typically weak in runners and a good stride STARTS with strong extension at the hip (which is primarily glutes). If the hamstrings are dominant (and they often are), the hamstrings will try to take over and because they’re missing the glute as the primary mover they are more likely to get injured (boo hamstring injuries). We want our glutes to fire….so, yes SQUAT.
  3. Chest opening exercises/ external rotation: I know this one seems BORING – I agree it’s not the MOST exciting one, but most runners are tight in the chest and weak in external rotation/ chest opening which results in a rounded shoulder posture AND reduces your capability to breath well. Try this. Seated or standing round the shoulders and HUNCH your body (aka sit at a desk). Take a deep breath. You can’t right? Now sit or stand tall, open up your shoulders and take a deep inhalation right down to your belly. #boom You can’t run FAST if you can’t breath well…just sayin’
  4. Bridges: Again, I’m back to glute firing AND now I also want to layer in the all important CORE. There’s an old Paul Chek (core guru) quote “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.” If you want to be a powerful, strong or fast runner – you need a strong foundation. That strong foundation is your core. Not your legs (gasp, I know!). Your legs can’t translate their power into a running stride without a strong pelvic floor/ core. So core exercises are essential to being a strong runner. With the bridge, this is all about holding your hips level as you switch legs (think strong leg turnover in a running stride).  As you get stronger with this exercise and move to a single leg version this is even more functional for running (aka single leg stance with supported core) But remember – anyone can do tough core work improperly. That’s not the point! Simple is great. Simple executed well is best. So, bridge well my friends. Which means your hips don’t drop – which means you’re powering from the core .
  5. Superman: This is all about sling work. I could “geek out” here for a long time (that’s another post). But the essence is this. Your body works in systems of muscles and fascia (aka connective tissue) working together to create functional movement patterns. Of course if you run you know that you’re always swinging opposite arm/leg. Bear with me one second while I get a bit geeky. In order for your body to effectively execute these movements it requires the brain and body to coordinate to fire specific muscles in a very specific sequence. If there is an imbalance of strength, flexiblity or neural firing (aka brain/body connection) this might not be happening in the correct sequence. Which may mean that muscles are firing out of turn and taking on more/less work than they’re designed for. This is where we get in trouble! Ok. Geek out over. What does this mean for you? This means you need movement patterns across your body need to be functional and strong. Superman is a great starting place for this. This is also where exercises like wood chops, and unilateral upper body work in a split stance come into play. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you need to start with the basics….so Superman.

You’ll notice I don’t include any machines OR any strength equipment. These exercises can ALL be done with body weight and/or some dumbbells and an exercise tube/ band. These exercises are really focused on functional movement patterns that fire your core. Again, static, supported strengthening (aka machines or single plane bench based work) has it’s place – but if you want to develop strength for running (and get better, stronger and stay injury free) these are the movement patterns you need to work on if your time/ interest in doing strength work is limited.

Need some Support?

Are you looking for the how on these exercises so you can execute great form and train your body to in a way that maximizes the benefit? Awesome! You might want to check out workouts available in the Super You Studio. Want video based fitness, yoga and foam rolling plus run plans, fun monthly challenges, an amazing community (and access to the RunCrew Coaches)? All of this (and more) is available to members of the Super You RunCrew. It might be just the support you need to ROCK your runs!

Whatever you do, run well, train smart and run happy (bring joy to the journey)!