Runners are often encouraged to start a lifting or core routine, yet many endurance athletes have little to no experience in the weight room and may not know where to begin. The following are exercises that are most beneficial for runners, as well as explanations on proper execution.
Squats are a great exercise for runners because they work hip, glute, hamstring, core, and quadricep muscles to support proper running form and prevent injuries in the knees and hips. For a proper squat, feet should be hip’s width apart and knees should always be above ankles. If squats are difficult because of Achilles tendon inflexibility, heel elevation can improve range of motion.
Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) are excellent for strengthening glutes, hips, and hamstrings. For this exercise, feet should be planted firmly on the ground at hip’s width apart. Any type of weight can be used, such as a barbell, two dumbbells, or a kettlebell, which should be held loosely in front of the body. With knees slightly bent, engage your glutes and slowly bend at the waist towards the floor, pushing lower back and glutes away from the body. Slowly return to starting position, using only hamstrings and glutes to power the movement.
Walking lunges are an exercise that helps runners gain functional strength while also strengthening small stability muscles that may be contributing to injury. With hands on hips, start by first driving your right knee towards the ceiling, and then landing firmly on your foot while lowering the knee of your left leg almost entirely to the floor. Once you are stable, continue moving forward by now bringing your left knee towards the ceiling and repeating the movement.
Many runners neglect their upper bodies when weight lifting because they mistakenly believe that legs and core are most important. However, chest, shoulder, and arm strength is necessary in order to maintain the body upright at the end of a race and also ensure the arms remain pumping long after the legs have grown tired. One great exercise to target all three areas (plus back and core) is bench press. Lie flat on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in either hand. For this exercise, using dumbbells instead of a bar is recommended for improved stability. Bring the dumbbells down towards armpits, and then push them away from the body until arms are fully extended.