How can being stronger help you to be a better runner? I can answer that by directing you to this blog from my archives. Basically, being stronger helps to improve power output and sprint speed. It can reduce injury risk, increase stride length and improve oxygen economy. Those are the main evidence-based benefits. So why don’t more runners compliment their running with strength and conditioning?
In my experience, having worked with numerous runners of all levels the main reasons are as follows:
Let’s break those down a bit:
OK, so we have covered the mental stuff. Now let’s talk about exercise selection and why certain exercises are going to be better for you than others. Obviously, leg and core exercises are necessary. If you want stronger legs, more powerful hips and a more stable core. But do you realise how important your arms and shoulders are for running? You have to pump those arms, and those arms are attached to your shoulders. But stronger, more stable shoulders rely on having a stronger chest and mid-back. Because those muscle groups are all connected… well, I mean ALL muscle groups are connected in some way or other but just as strong legs require strong and stable hips, so strong shoulders require a strong and stable back.
Besides, if you train your mid back you will also get less neck stiffness or pain.
Right, so what are the exercises?
1. Squats – no surprises there. The daddy of all leg exercises, this targets the Quadriceps at the front of the thigh and the Glutes in your bum. But, seeing as running is a uni-lateral movement I want you to do split squats. Do 3 sets of 5-8 reps on each leg.
2. Romanian Deadlifts (RDL) – this variation places more emphasis on the Glutes and Hamstrings, perfect for runners. You could, of course do the more advanced Single leg variation too. Do 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
3. Banded Clams – this exercise targets the lateral hips, the Glutes Minimus and Medius. Developing lateral hip stability is really important for improving power generation from the hips but also for improving knee stability. If the lateral Glutes are weak your knees may be moving in ways you don’t want them to be moving as your feet contact the floor with each step. Do 3 sets of 15-25 reps.
4. TRX Row – this exercise hits the Lats and Rhomboids in the mid-back area as well as the biceps. There is also a core stability element to this because you have to stabilise your torso because you are lifting your own bodyweight. I find this is a useful upper body exercise for runners who are mindful of not creating bulk in the upper body. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps. (I now have grip-tape on the floor specifically for this exercise).
5. TRX Chest press – This exercise targets the chest, shoulders and back of the arms. It also, again, has an element of core stability to it. You could, of course do press ups if you don’t have a TRX, or are strong enough. Just as an aside, in my experience endurance athletes don’t really train their upper body and are therefore weaker than average and struggle with press-ups. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
6. The Pallof Press – a core exercise that trains anti-rotation. This is important for runners because your torso rotates when you run and it is therefore important to training the trunk to be able to resist that motion. This not only reduces the likelihood of lower back pain but actually improves the torso’s ability to generate rotation through a safe and stable range of motion. I’m using a resistance band but you could use a cable machine in the gym. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps, or static holds as demonstrated.
I have recommended set and rep ranges for each exercise. You could actually do this in a circuit fashion. So do the required number of reps of each exercise in sequence with as little rest as possible between sets. Then rest and repeat. When selecting weights like kettlebells you need a weight that is challenging enough to create an adaptation stimulus but that isn’t too wavy that you can’t move with good form. Most runners start way too light; you are stronger than you think. For kettlebells a 16kg kettlebell is a good starting point for most people, if you are a larger male maybe start with a 20kg. This is a good time-saving way of approaching the workout. These are 6 examples, there are many other exercise variations, why not check out my Patreon to see more workout examples?
Developing better strength and stability by doing resistance training is a good thing to consider if you want to be better at running. Acquire the knowledge necessary to do the workouts with confidence – hire a coach if needs be. Plan your weeks out so that you can see where you have time availability. 30-minutes twice a week is usually enough.
Train legs, hips, core and upper body too. Bodyweight exercises are usually adequate for the upper body, especially if you are concerned about gaining bulk. Single leg exercise variations and anti-rotation stability exercises are especially specific to the act of running.
Here’s what a client had to say about their experience training with me:
Troy is a rare being - a coach who actually listens to you. He really takes the time to actually find out what you want from training and tailors sessions to your needs. I really appreciate the evidence base he draws upon when giving advice. Working with Troy I get injured so much less.
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