Nowadays, regardless of the sport or challenge that they're participating in, many people see the value of strength training to help them strengthen the specific muscles and ligaments necessary to help take their performance the extra mile. When it comes to running, run-specific strength training is gold as you need to have strong glutes, hamstrings, a strong core and good posture if you want to have a comfortable and (hopefully) injury-free run.
It's also good to practise single sided exercises, because when you run you are only ever balancing on one leg at a time. This means that both legs needs to be strong and you need to work on any imbalances, such as if one hamstring is tighter than the other.
Here are a few of the best exercises for runners.
Kettle bell single leg deadlifts
This is a great exercise because when you are working one leg at a time, you are essentially stopping the stronger leg from doing more of the work. This means that you have the opportunity to better strengthen your weaker side.
This exercise allows you to recruit and engage your posterior chain through both the up and down phases while forcusing your core to engage in order to help you balance. Remember that it is more important to do this exercise in a controlled manner, so go slowly and do your reps with integrity.
How to do it:
- Stand straight with a kettlebell in your right hand. Keep your stomach sucked in tight and your shoulders back.
- Plant your left leg into the ground; this leg is going to be your support on this side.
- Now send your right leg straight back behind you, while at the same time bring the front of you body forward until it is almost parallel to the ground. So, without breaking the hips, slowly start leaning forward, allowing the weight to carry you down, while pushing the right leg back towards the wall behind you.
-Now slowly bring yourself back up to standing. You should be feeling this in your core, your left hamstring and your right glute.
When you run, you only ever have one leg on the ground at a time, so this is a great exercise to help work on your core and leg strength while improving balance.
- - Begin in a standing position with a bar, broomstick, kettlebell etc in your hands in front of you.
- - Keep your back is straight for the entire exercises, suck in your stomach to engage your core, and stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- - Bend forward at the hips, slowly pushing your butt back towards the wall behind you. Your knees should only partially bend which should generate tension in your hamstrings.
- - When your hips cannot go any further backwards, pause, and then slowly return to standing by extending the hips.
- When starting out, use a bar or broomstick to ensure that you maintain a neutral spine throughout the motion. Keep it in contact with your head, back, and tailbone throughout the movement.
After you've practiced the movement correctly until it feels natural, then you can consider adding more weight or even trying the single leg version of this exercise.
Single leg squat with a TRX
- - Set up your TRX up so that the handles are at around chest height. Hold onto the straps and take a step back away from the tether point.
- - Stand with your feet hip width apart, suck in your stomach to engage your core and keep your shoulders back.
- - Lift your right leg off the ground, keeping the above posture as you balance on the one leg.
- - Slowly start bending your left knee, pushing your butt back as if you are about to sit in a chair.
- - Get as low as you can, then slowly engage the muscles and start standing up straight again.
That is 1 rep, do at least 8 per side.
Lateral lunges are a great exercise for activating the abductors and hip-stabilising muscles.
- - Step out to your right side, keeping both feet pointing ahead of you.
- - Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground, keeping your left leg straight.
- - Step back to the centre and repeat on the other side.
- - Focus on keeping your stomach sucked in the entire time. As you have to balance to bring your leg back to standing position, it means that you abs have to do a lot of the work, and in turn they also get a workout!
This is a great exercise that will condition your quads, while strengthening your core and improving your posture. With this exercise, move in a controlled manner and focus on keeping your back straight and core engaged.
How to do it:
- Hold a towel or broomstick above your head.
- Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width apart and slightly angled at around 45 degrees.
- Slow squat down, keeping your chest and arms up and your core engaged.
- When you get to your lowest point, engage your core and push yourself back up to standing keeping the towel/stick above your head the entire time.