Strength exercises are something that many runners forget about. We think that because we run that makes us strong enough. Supplementing your runs with strength exercises not only aids in injury prevention, but it will also make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner. Below are some of my favorite strength exercises that will keep those injuries away and hopefully help you set that new personal record. Keep in mind that strength exercises need to be done on a regular basis to be effective. I like to do mine every other day after my run.
Exercise #1: Planks
Hands down one of my favorite strength exercises is the plank. Not only does this simple exercise work every muscle of your core, back, and shoulders, but it’s one you can virtually do anywhere. The important things to remember when doing planks are to keep your back flat, no arching or letting it cave in, and keep your abdominal muscles tight. Start by holding a plank for 45-60 seconds and try to do at least 3 reps. Over time as your core becomes stronger you can start doing variations of the plank such as, side planks to work your oblique muscles, and single leg planks. Here is a video showing proper form for a plank and side plank.
Exercise #2: Stability Ball Jackknife
This exercise is again great for your core and your shoulders. It does require a stability ball, but almost all gyms have them or you can purchase your own for around $30. To do a jackknife you will get into a pushup position with your shins up on top of the stability ball. Pull the stability ball towards your chest, rounding your back up as you do so. Here is a video showing proper form.
Exercise #3: Single Leg Bridge
Bridges are a great strength exercise that works your hamstrings and glutes. Tight hamstrings and weak glutes are common problems many runners face. To do a single leg bridge, lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Raise your hips towards the ceiling and extend one leg out towards the ceiling, making sure that your hips are parallel with each other. Repeat the process with the other leg. Here is a video demonstrating the proper way to do bridges.
Exercise #4: Superman
The superman exercise is great for strengthening your lower back. Having a strong lower back is just as important as having strong abdominal muscles. Like the name suggests you will basically look like Superman trying to fly. To do this exercise, lay on your stomach with your legs and arms extended out in front. Raise your head, right arm, and left leg slightly off the ground and hold it for about 3-5 seconds on each side. When doing this exercise don’t lift your shoulders too far off the ground. Here is a video showing you proper form and different levels of difficulty you can progress to.
There are numerous strength exercises that you can practice, the 4 listed above are ones that I do on a regular basis. Just remember that running isn’t enough on it’s own. If you want to stay injury free and continue to increase your strength, improve your times, and be a more efficient runner then you need to start adding in strength exercises.