Strength Exercises for Runners
Ideally done 3-4 times a week following a run or whenever in a gym.
Done in addition to cool-down exercises and stretches described elsewhere, or exercises geared towards building muscle size and strength.
Order is not super critical – depends on when equipment is available. The most important thing is to alternate which muscles are being exercised, thus keeping fresh throughout. Keep moving and these can be done in 30 minutes. There may be days you only have enough time to pick and choose, or if you’re at a gym without all the equipment That’s OK. Better something than nothing!
- Bench crunches and stretches. On a standard bench press bench, sit on bench end and do V-extensions. Perform about 10 straight out then five to each side. Then 10 again straight. You may need to build up to this many. Keep good form – stop when losing it. After you’ve built up may want to do another set. Works abs and obliques.
- Side bend on a back extension bench. Plant one foot beneath the other, put hands behind neck without clasping, and move up and down sideways – 15-20 reps on each side.
- Pull Downs. Using an upright cable machine, pull down on a double rope 25-35 times. Can do frontwards or backwards. Bend from your hips. May want to do 15 reps at one weight and another 15 with 10 more pounds. Feel the pull in your abs.
- Back extensions. On the back extension machine, use a weight that allows for 30-40 reps comfortably. Be sure to not overextend!
- Quad extensions. On the leg extension machine, find a weight that allows you to do static holds in the extended position for a count of 10. Alternate the legs and do 8-10 holds with each leg with slight eccentric movement at end of hold. (Thus, this will take 2-3 minutes.) Going up and down, the way most people do these, grinds at the knee. Static holds build your quads and muscles around your knees that support the patella and knee overall.
- Hamstring curls. On the hamstring curl machine, focus on the eccentric (lengthening) motion by using both legs to pull down the roller and then let the weight pull against one leg as you release the weight eccentrically. Expect to use approximately 80% of the weight used for the quad extensions. Alternate legs and perform 8-10 reps with each leg. When you get off the machine, your hamstrings may feel tight. If so, sit on a flat bench and stretch them out.
- Adductor machine. Using a seated adductor machine, find a weight that allows for 20 reps comfortably. Not maximum weight. Set the machine so when fully extended there is tension on your adductor. Use your hands to close the pads. Do it slowly and feel the stretch at the widest angle. This is both a stretching and strengthening exercise.
- Abductor machine. Find a weight that allows for 10 reps. In between sets pull sideways and do a full stretch looking backwards. Then strecth the other side. Then repeat the weights. With the stretches, this is both a stretching and strengthening exercise. A good exercise for the glute medius and TFL.
- Seated cable row. Use this machine for both strength and flexibility training. Find a weight that allows for 10-12 pulls with intermediate resistance. Then straddle the bench forwards and do a full stretch on each side of your quads. Then add 10 pounds and do 10-12 more pulls. This is also good for use as a primary building exercise. If so, add more weight and only do three times a week maximum with at least a day’s rest in between.
- Seated Leg press. On the seated press, use a weight that allows for repeats for two minutes (yes, this is a long time!) Move your foot positions around, including some at the bottom to stretch the calves. Do 8-10 presses in each position. This is not a maximum weight exercise.
- Standing dumbbell press. Builds shoulders and lower arms. Push up one arm and rotate as you reach the top. Then bring that arm down as you raise the other arm in a continuous motion. Perform 10-12 presses on each side. This is also good to use as a primary building exercise.
- Hip press on assisted chin-up machine. Set the weight so you can press down with your leg 15 times without reaching exhaustion. Feel the stretch in the opposite hip/quad you press down on the platform. Then switch legs. Finish off with some eccentric heel dips on the steps. This exercise is rarely seen in the gym, yet it targets running-specific muscles.
- Weighted lunges. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and then lunge far enough forward so your knee does not extend beyond your foot. Then do the other side. Do a total of 12-15 reps. Can do two sets if desired. Weight should not be so heavy to throw you off balance as you lunge. This is good exercise for developing balance.
- Rear deltoid fly. On the deltoid machine, pull backwards on the handles. This counteracts the normal sitting position and is good for posture and strength. Find a weight that allows for 10-12 reps. Do three sets.
- Eccentric heel dips These are also on the cool-down list but can’t do too many of these! Find any excuse to do heel dips throughout your weight routine as you rest between sets and exercises. Your calves, Achilles, and plantar facia will appreciate it!
Enjoy these exercises. They should make you work but not grunt. Done consistently, they will help in various ways with your running as well as give you better overall tone and strength.