Developing a great running program is no longer just about running. In fact, a good program will include a mix of long runs, fartlek training, hill sprints, recovery sessions and of course strength training.
So why is strength training so important?
As a runner I can tell you that when running a long distance, such as a marathon, if one side of your body is weaker than the other, if your core is not strong, if your posture starts to hunch and if your calves and ankles are weak, then it’s likely that are some point during your run you are going to start to hurt and it is going to get worse and worse as you go on.
That’s where strength training comes in and that is why it is important.
When you are running, you are only ever on one leg at a time, so it’s a good idea to work on single leg exercises so that you can the specifics and work on any imbalances that may affect your performance. For example, you may find that one hamstring feels tighter than the other so you will want to strengthen the weaker side.
I am a big fan of strength training for runners, however it’s important to do exercises that are relevant to what you are doing so the exercises that you want to focus on are those that recruit muscles, joints and movements that directly translate to endurance, and by strengthening these areas, they should also help with injury prevention and stability throughout the ankle, knee, hip, core and shoulder.
These are the 6 essential strength moves for runners
Kettle Bell Single Leg Dead Lifts
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 focusing 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.
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.
How To Do This Exercise:
- 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 doing a step up, ensure that you focus on only using your rear leg to balance. Press through the heel on your rear leg and engage your glute to drive you upwards.
It’s important to note that your hips and knees remain straight throughout both eccentric and concentric phases. Don’t let your knee roll in and hip push out.
How to Do This Exercise:
- Find a step that is around 30-50cm high
- Step your right foot onto the step and ensure that you are balanced while you drive your left knee up to around hip height
- Put your left foot back on the ground and then go again
- If you want to add to this, add a barbell. Hold it safely on your upper back
This is a great exercise that will keep condition your quads, while strengthening your core and improve your posture.
With this exercise, move in a controlled manner and focus on keeping your back straight and core engaged.
How to Do This Exercise
- Hold a towel 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 above your head at all times.
Pistol Squat / Single Leg Squat with a TRX*
- Set up your TRX so that the handles are at about chest height.
- Hold onto the straps and take a step back away from the tether point.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, such in your stomach to engage your core and keep your shoulders back.
- Lift your right leg off the ground, maintain balance and the above posture.
- 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.
*If you don’t have a TRX you can balance yourself using a sturdy chair or railing that is chest height
This is a great exercise that activates the abductors and hip-stabilizing muscles.
How to do this Exercise
- 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.
How to do this exercise:
- Begin in a standing position with a dumbbell, weight, bar, broomstick etc. in your hands in front of you.
- Ensure that your back is straight for the entire exercise, suck in your stomach to engage your core, and stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Now bend forward at the hips, slowly pushing your butt back towards the opposite wall. 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, and you can tell when you are cheating, then you are finally ready to add weight. In time, you can work toward single-leg deadlifts.
If you add these moves into your program, you’ll notice your strength and balance improve a lot faster as well as reducing your risk of injury!
Are you in training for an event?
Ben is the owner and co-founder of Flow Athletic, an incredibly successful yoga and fitness studio based in Paddington. It is now known worldwide and they have a lot of internationals coming in to try out their classes. He was also named one of the 2017 ‘Men of Influence’ by Men’s Style magazine.
Ben also came up with the innovative Flow After Dark silent yoga disco concept in 2016. He has also created the Nightclub Spin, Sofa 2 Surf and 30 Days Clean concepts which are always huge hits and generate a lot of interest within the media.
Prior to getting into the fitness industry, Ben was a professional NRL player for the Cronulla Sharks and a number of other teams. After finishing his stint with the NRL, he went on to own three very successful personal training studios and during that time he also turned to Ultra Endurance running.
In the space of 5 years, he ran 35 marathons and 5 ultra marathons all over the world. Due to his interest in running, he then went on to train up 101 non- runners to run and complete their first marathon! A challenge he said he probably won’t take on again, however as a result Sofa2Surf was born.