Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.
Strength Training for Runner’s
Running is a recreational sport that utilizes the coordination of many large muscle groups to propel us forward at an incredibly fast rate, or at least a faster rate than walking. Strength, conditioning, and endurance are all important aspects of being able to squeeze a little extra performance out of training. Since several large muscles groups are used during running, we are going to take a look at what key muscle groups are being used, and exercises to help you increase your performance wherever you choose to run. It’s important to leave time for strengthening exercises for runners specifically.
What Muscles are Most Active During Running?
There are five main muscle groups being used during running; the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips flexors, and core muscles. These are the main muscle groups that can be targeted through exercises to improve performance.
Through strength training, these muscles can deliver more power and endurance to not only improve performance, but more importantly can help decrease the risk of injury with running! The more resilient you are through strength training, the further and harder you can push your body.
Strength training will improve your posture which is very important to run effectively, affecting your breathing and length of stride.
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What Strengthening Exercises Should Runners Perform
When strength training for running is it important to note that all of these muscles are being used in coordination with each other. So instead of training by isolating muscle groups for workouts, the use of compound exercises will help prepare the body more adequately for the activity of running. This strengthens and coordinates the body as a whole unit allowing load to be spread across muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Using kettlebells for compound strength exercises is a great and inexpensive way to challenge yourself during these exercises. The unstable nature of Kettlebells recruit more muscles during training, incorporating your core and back, promotes muscle growth that will give you the extra power and endurance needed to improve your running game.
Kettlebell Exercises for Runners
These exercises can be used with or without the inclusion of kettlebells, it really depends on what you are comfortable with. You can do simple sets or you could string these together in an interval circuit, focusing on working one of the exercises for a length of time, say a minute, and then immediately move into the next exercise.
Kettlebell Calf Raises
Calf raises with a kettlebell are simple and easy to incorporate into any exercise routine. This exercise targets the calves and is easy to accomplish anywhere. With a kettlebell in each hand in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, raise yourself onto your toes, then lower yourself back down onto the heel of the foot. To make them harder and more effective for running try to do it single-leg and focus on the eccentric phase by focusing on the down motion by going slow.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise you can hang most of your feet off a small ledge, like a box, in order to get extra flexion in the ankle and activate more of the calve muscles.
Kettlebell Goblet Squats
This exercise works all of the muscles utilized in running and then some. All of the aforementioned muscle groups of the legs are utilized, and it recruits muscles of the core and back as well. Goblet squats are a great addition to any strength training routine as well as being a great exercise for runners.
To perform a goblet squat, have your feet at hip-width or slightly larger and hold a kettlebell at chest level while being mindful to keep your shoulders squared and back. Squat down to around 90 degrees and then powering through your legs, come back up to standing. To get more benefit for running, try to perform the goblet squats with a fast temp to mimic quick muscle twitch and loading.
Kettlebell Reverse Lunges
Lunges, both reverse and forwards, also work all the muscles of the leg and the hip. Reverse lunges give a greater degree of stability throughout the exercise, improving control over hip flexion and reducing the amount of side-to-side movement caused when running. It is also more knee friendly should anyone have a history of knee pain.
While standing with feet at shoulder width and holding the kettlebell at chest level, just as with the goblet squat, take a step back with your right leg. While taking the step backward lower your hips to where your left thigh becomes parallel to the ground while keeping the right knee from touching the ground. Return to the standing position by bringing your right leg back to its original position, then alternate legs and repeat the exercise. As mentioned previously, try to perform these at the same pace that you might be running at.
Kettlebell Single-Leg Dead Lift
This is an excellent exercise that really targets the hips and the back. It also promotes movement on the hip joint instead of movement occurring in the low back which is one of the most common areas of pain in runners.
Start in a standing position with a kettlebell in one hand. Then tip yourself forward at your opposite hip lowering the kettlebell to the floor and raising your non-stance leg up to parallel with the floor.
To return to the starting position drive your hip forward on the stance leg while maintaining the back straight. Alternate legs and then repeat the exercise, this time rotating to the left.
Kettlebell Bob and Weave
The bob and weave is a lateral lunge meaning a sideways lunge that really utilizes the glutes through the movement.
This exercise starts in a standing position, feet at shoulder width while holding the kettlebell at chest level. Take a large step with your left leg out towards the side while shifting your hips down into a lunge position, meaning your thighs should be parallel to the ground.
Follow through with the lunge with the right leg, returning to a standing position.
The kettlebell swing is also a full-body exercise, albeit a little more explosive. The starting position is the same as with the deadlift, standing with feet hip-width apart and letting the kettlebell hang in both hands with shoulders back.
Keeping your back straight, lower your hips into a semi-sitting position, pushing your hips backward and allowing the kettlebell to fall between your legs. Now explosively with your hips and while keeping your arms straight, fling the kettlebell forward to chest height and straighten out your knees and hips.
Let the kettlebell follow its natural movement and fall, while you repeat the semi-squat position and ‘catch’ the kettlebell with your hips by letting your weight settle back into your glutes and hamstrings. The explosive movement of throwing the kettlebell with your hips is then repeated.
Running is one of the most fundamental and beneficial exercises that we can perform. It offers us so many benefits with very little time or equipment requirements. However, it can also provide an opportunity for injuries to occur for a variety of different reasons. One of the best ways to prevent injuries while running is to add a strength training regimen at least 2 days a week. Stay safe on the trail, path, road or wherever you choose to run.