Whilst most runners train by, well, running, there's a lot more to improving endurance and muscular strength.
Strength training is fast becoming a popular choice for runners, thanks to the variety of exercises that combine to strengthen, tone and provide better stability for the legs.
For regular runners, strong leg muscles put less pressure on the joints, reducing your risk of injury. And for sprinters, leg exercises that promote strength can have a huge impact on those explosive starts and faster finish times.
Combining running with strength training exercises in the gym will help to make you a stronger and faster runner. So it's no surprise that endurance athletes incorporate strength training as part of their overall fitness plan.
We take a look at the top four exercises runners can perform in the gym to enhance and improve their running performance.
Great for: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core.
Squats work all of the core muscles in the legs, activating the areas crucial for speed and endurance whilst running. By incorporating squats into your strength training regime, you'll run faster on the flats, power up those climbs and strengthen the legs for a better stride.
Working the quads also helps to stabilise the knees, absorbing the impact of each landing as you run. This in turn helps to avoid injury, resulting in a smoother glide and reduced joint pain.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Point the toes slightly outward whilst keeping your back straight.
- Place a bar of a comfortable weight on the back of your shoulders.
- Slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, maintaining good posture with a straight back.
- Return to the starting position.
Repeat eight reps per set.
Great for: Hamstring, glutes, core, lower back, forearms.
A great way to strengthen the hamstring, glutes, and back, deadlifting can help runners to improve posture, which is crucial for preventing injury and aiding uphill climbs.
- Place your feet beneath the bar, with your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart.
- Point your toes outwards and keep the bar close to your body to maintain balance.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and lift while keeping your lower back slightly arched.
- Activate your glutes by squeezing as you stand upright.
- Lower the bar slowly by pushing your hips back and bending the knees as you return to start.
Repeat six reps per set.
3: Walking Lunges
Great for: Quads, glutes, hamstring and calves.
Walking lunges are great for runners as they mimic the act of running and help train the body to accelerate forwards at a quicker pace. Walking lunges also help to improve co-ordination and balance. Use a dumbbell whilst you lunge for extra resistance.
- With a dumbbell in each hand, start by stepping forward with one leg, lowering your leg to a 90 degree angle with the floor.
- Push back up and stride out with the other leg, pushing the knee forward and keeping the quads parallel with the floor.
Repeat 10 reps per leg.
4: Calf Raise
Great for: Calves
Calf raises are great for strengthening the muscles to prevent fatique, especially during uphill runs. Stronger ankles also help to increase stride length and reduce the risk of injury.
- Stand on your toes on the edge of a step, heels hanging off the back.
- Lift your heels as you rise onto your tip toes, and hold for a few seconds to feel the stretch in your calves.
- Slowly lower the heels down to the starting position.
Aim for 15 to 20 reps per set.
Going Long Distance?
Take a look at our marathon training tips and get started on training for one of the biggest marathon events this year...
- The Groundhog Marathon - Shropshire - 2nd March
- Phoenix Spring Marathon - Walton-On-Thames - 2nd March
- Running Grand Prix - Oulton Park, Cheshire - 3rd March
- Thames Meander Marathon - Kingston Upon Thames - 9th March
- Dorney Lake Marathon, Windsor - 10th March
- ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon, Manchester - 7th April
- Brighton Marathon, Brighton - 14th April
- Blackpool Festival of Running - 27th April
- MK Marathon Weekend - Milton Keynes - 6th May
- Newcastle Racecourse Marathon, Newcastle - 12th May
- The Family Marathon - Victoria Park, London - 29th June
- Richmond Runfest - Kew Gardens, London - 15th September