Suspension Trainer Exercises for Runners
Are you training for a marathon? A 10K? A turkey trot? Whatever your running goals are, you still should be putting in the time to train correctly. For many, this means running the miles, but you should also be adding some strength training to your routine. Strength training is not only a means of preventing injury, but will also make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.
One great tool to use for strength training is the TRX suspension trainer. The TRX is a multi-tool of exercise; simultaneously building muscular strength and endurance, coordination, balance, mobility, flexibility, and core strength. With this simple piece of equipment, you can gain all of these benefits and improve your overall performance out on the track (or wherever you may run).
Here are a few examples of exercises you should add to your training routine. Each exercise is meant to target areas that are beneficial to runners and will help you get towards your next running goal.
For all of the TRX strengthening exercises perform 8-10 reps, 2- 3 times on each side (as applicable).
The dreaded plank. As much as everyone despises planks, they are actually a very effective exercise. Targeting multiple muscle groups at once, you can get the most bang for your buck with a single plank. With the TRX plank, you are working on core strength and endurance, while will help you keep your chest upright to improve breathing and arm swing with running.
For the TRX plank, set up the length of the straps before you get to the ground. For this exercise, set up the length so the handles are at about mid-shin level. Once set up, place the feet in the cradles (the larger loop) toes first, and come onto your hands and knees. From here put weight into your hands, straighten out the knees, lifting off the ground so your torso is parallel to the ground. In this position think about flexing your feet to fire up the quads and glutes. Try not to bring the hips too high or let them sag, engage your core to keep a nice straight line from head to toe. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds and repeat 3 times.
The TRX lunge is a great exercise to correct any running imbalances between the left and right leg. It improves not only your core strength but really works on your single-leg stability for improved landing and push-off in running.
For the lunge with the TRX, keep the strap length to the mid-shin level. Combine both of the cradles together and place the right foot through both cradles, standing on the leg. Starting with the left leg straight with hands on your hips. Slowly start to lower into a lunge, sending the right foot backward and bending the left knee to 90 degrees. With control, come back up to start.
TRX SIDE to SIDE LUNGE
The side to side lunge is a great exercise because it targets the hip abductors. The hip abductors are responsible for all sideways movements. With runners, the hip abductors sometimes get neglected and get weak, so it’s always great to add on some hip exercises in the program.
For the TRX side to side lunge, adjust the straps to the mid-torso level. Bring the handle straps into both hands and take a few steps back to gain tension in the straps. Bring your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you as you sit your right glute back and down to the right side of your body, going into a side lunge position. From here, drive the right heel down as you come back to stand. Repeat the same movement on the left side.
Extend your arms as you sit your right glute back-and-down behind your right heel. Drop as low as you are comfortable. Inhale, drive through your right heel, and stand tall. Keep tension on the straps and in your core. Repeat on your left side. That’s one rep.
TRX HAMSTRING CURL
To be an efficient runner and decrease your risk of injuries, you need to keep your body balanced between the front and back of the body. This exercise targets the backside of the leg, specifically the hamstrings, which are a big player in running.
For this exercise, return the straps to the mid-shin level. Lie on your back and place your heels in the foot cradles. Pushing down into your heels, lift your hips off of the ground. Keep your hips lifted, bend your knees bringing your heels towards you. Slowly return to the start position. With this exercise think about keeping equal weight in both heels for the best results.
The TRX squat jump is helpful and developing some explosive power in the legs, which is very helpful for the push-off part of running, but it is also just a fun exercise to do.
For the squat jump, bring the straps to mid-torso length. Holding onto the handle straps into both hands and take a few steps back. When you have a decent tension in the straps, bring the feet about hip-width apart and stand upright. Slowly start to lower into a squat position with your weight in the heels. Then, drive through the heels to push off the ground and land. Use the handles for balance and try to land softly back on the ground.
TRX LUNGE/HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
While this is not a strengthening exercise, this is a great one to add for flexibility in runners. Opening up the front of the hips allows you to improve your stride length, which often improves running times.
For this stretch, keep the strap length at a mid-torso level. Place both hands in the handle straps, with your feet shoulder apart, facing away from the anchor point. Extend your hands out in front of you and start to lunge forward with the right foot. At the same time start to raise your left arm overhead and your right arm down by your side, sinking further into the lunge. You should feel a nice stretch on the front side of the left hip, hold this position for 20 seconds. Return back to the start position, repeat 3-4 times, and then go onto the other side.
So, before you sign up for your next running event, think about adding these exercises to your training routine and see the benefits in your performance and your running time.
Mateo, A. “TRX Workout Can Strategically Improve Your Running Performance.” Runners World, 27 Nov 2018.
Vuorimaa, T., Virlander, R., Kurkilahti, P. et al. “Acute changes in muscle activation and leg extension performance after different running exercises in elite long-distance runners.” Eur J Appl Physiol 96, 282–291 (2006).
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.