Runners often neglect strength training, but lifting weights will make you a stronger, faster and more injury-proof runner, says Men’s Fitness editorial director and marathon competitor Joe Warner
Most runners spend all their training time running. That’s no surprise – if you want to get really good at something you need to keep at it, right?
In some disciplines with a high skill requirement, such as playing the piano or throwing a peanut up into the air then catching it in your mouth, then yes, practice does indeed make perfect. But for runners, dedicating every minute of every workout to pounding the pavements (or the treadmill) isn’t the most effective way to improve.
Why? You run the risk of exacerbating any muscular imbalances and injuries, damaging your joints, tendons and ligaments, and simply causing your progress to stagnate so you don’t get fitter or faster because your body gets used to doing the same session multiple times each week.
So what’s the answer? As most many running experts will tell you, whether you’re new to running or an old hand, you need to spend at least one workout a week improving your muscular strength, especially the muscles of your core, lower back, glutes and legs. This can replace one of your runs or be a bonus session.
“But I want to be speedy, not strong!” runners cry in unison. That’s the wrong mindset, because improving muscle strength will make you faster over short runs and help you to find longer distances more manageable.
So how do you get stronger? Start by doing this kit-free bodyweight workout, designed by Shaun Estragó, senior trainer at Ultimate Performance Marbella (upfitness.co.uk), once or twice a week.
Once a circuit becomes too easy you can then make it harder with the introduction of a couple of dumbbells. Within six weeks you’ll notice an improvement in almost every aspect of your running.
Strength Training Circuit For Runners
“This circuit works one leg at a time, which will strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and quads of each leg equally,” says Estragó. “It also increases the hamstrings’ ability to produce force, which contributes to power output. The final two moves are core-focused so you can better support your torso when running.”
How to do it
Do all the moves in order without resting, only resting for 60 seconds after the last move. Do four circuits in total.
For the first four moves do the first set and third set with your right leg, and the second and fourth with your left leg. For the side plank do the first and third set on your right side, and the second and fourth on your left.
1 Single-leg squat
Illustrations: Sudden Impact
Start on one leg with both hands straight in front of you. Keep your chest up and bend your standing leg to squat down. Drive through your heel to return to the start.
2 Single-leg Romanian deadlift
Stand on one leg. Bend forward from the hips, keeping your standing leg straight, so your hand travels towards your toes. Reverse back to the start.
RECOMMENDED: Romanian Deadlift
Stand tall, then take a big step forward with one foot. Keeping your chest up, lower until both knees are bent at 90°. Push off the front foot to reverse back to the start.
4 Single-leg glute bridge
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet together. Raise one leg off the floor and push your hips up with the other leg until your body is straight from shoulder to knee, keeping your glutes and core braced throughout. Lower to the start.
RECOMMENDED: Glute Bridge
5 Side plank
Lie on one side, resting on one elbow with your other arm flat against your side. Brace your core, then raise your hips so you’re straight from head to heels.
6 Lying back extension
Lie on your back with legs straight and fingers at your temples. Use your lower back to raise your chest. Pause at the top, then lower back to the start.
Joe Warner is the editorial director of Men’s Fitness magazine and is running the 2017 Virgin Marathon for Parkinson’s UK. You can follow his training on Twitter and sponsor him. Find out more about Parkinson’s UK.