As a runner, you may be solely focusing on ways to improve your cardio. While this will, of course, improve your running skills and allow you to run for longer, you will also need to focus on strength exercises. This is because strength training is the backbone of endurance training and can make you a more well-rounded runner.
The science proves strength exercises can benefit runners. For example, you will benefit from stronger leg muscles that can be more powerful and help you run longer distances and over hardier terrain. A stronger core can also reduce side-to-side movement, allowing you to have a better form that can keep you more balanced and streamlined, as well as make you less prone to accidents and injury as you can reduce muscle tissue repair time.
What are the best exercises for runners, however? Read on for the best strength exercises that are ideal for runners.
Runners will focus on building leg and core strength, with many forgetting about their arms, shoulders, and chest. However, arms are equally important when it comes to running as they can help keep you balanced and drive you forward.
Most of us will have heard of the push-up, but do you know the best way to execute this well-known exercise? Here’s how:
- Lay face down on a floor. Place your hands on either side of your chest and ensure your toes are tucked under and properly positions on the floor.
- While pressing down on your hands, start to raise your body up. Try not to stretch your neck while keeping your body as straight as possible. Avoid arching your back as this can cause back pain.
- Do not lock your elbows when raising your body. Once you have almost reached the point of locking your elbows, slowly bring your body back down to the floor and repeat.
IT Band Stretches
Damage to the IT Band is a common running injury. Therefore, knowing the best IT Band stretches to ensure you can properly recover and prevent further injury is essential. One common issue with an IT Band injury is known as the IT Band Syndrome – a pain felt around your knees. The following stretches can help reduce pain and keep your knees properly stabilized. If you are unsure on how to perform any of the following IT Band stretches, MoveWell shows you how to do them here.
The best IT Band stretches are:
- The Pigeon Pose
- Downward Dog
- Thread the Needle
- Low Dragon
- Standing Crossed Leg Hamstring Stretch
- IT Band Smash
Many runners want to improve stability when they are running and find a way to increase stride length. This can help you run faster and more smoothly. These are the benefits of walking lunges, along with the added benefits of improved posture and balance. Walking lunges can loosen up your hips and are a perfect pre-running warm-up, cool-down, or casual stretch throughout the day.
Here’s how to pull off the perfect walking lunge:
- Find a large, clear space and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Choose a leg and step forward. Slowly lower your body and allow your rear knee to gently move towards the floor. Do not let the rear knee make contact with the floor.
- Ensure your upper body is tight and straight.
- Once stretched, bring your front foot back to meet your rear leg and are back to the starting stance.
- Repeat but with the other leg and continue to alternate.
If you wish to make this stretch more challenging, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand.
The glute bridge is ideal for keeping your pelvis, legs, and torso aligned while running. However, the glute bridge also targets your abs and lower back, much like the squat. The difference between a glute bridge and a squat is that you will not have to apply much pressure on your lower back, making this a safer exercise to perform if you are experiencing discomfort from squatting. By performing regular glute bridges, you will benefit from gained stability and be able to run more efficiently.
The best practice behind an effective glute bridge is:
- Laying on your back with your arms by your side. Bring your knees in and ensure you have placed your feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly and carefully raise your hips upwards until you have created a straight line between your knees, hips, and shoulders.
- Always keep your shoulders on the floor. Not doing so can cause neck pain and injury.
- Hold the position for two to three seconds before slowly bringing your hips back to the floor.
Runners should know the importance of strength training and ensure they can make their body and muscles as flexible as possible. Not only can it improve their sporting capabilities, but it will also reduce the risk of injury.