Strength Training For Runners: Best Workout Routine
I was featured on NY1 News (New York City’s local TV station) as a fitness expert discussing the benefits of strength training for runners (video clip is here: NY1 Segment). The segment is part of a series of videos to help runners prepare for the NYC Marathon.
As I was looking over my notes to help prepare for the segment, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I shared these notes with everyone and made it into a special free guide?” Well, that’s exactly what I’ve done AND I even added a sample workout routine with exercise pics of me demonstrating the exercises. I hope you enjoy it!
Summary | Strength Training For Runners
Strength training plays a vital role in helping runners achieve peak performance and prevent injury, which is prevalent in the running world. Most runners have misconceptions about the role and importance of strength training in a running program.
Mainstream strength training workouts for runners are antiquated, with new approaches relying on both basic movements and sports specific exercises that emphasize strength, balance, and power, with short workouts 1-2x per week.
Strength Training Helps Prevent Injury
- 65 percent of runners are injured in an average year, one running injury occurs for about every 100 hours of running, and runners miss about 5-10 per cent of their workouts due to injury (‘Incidence and Severity of Injury Following Aerobic Training Programs Emphasising Running, Racewalking, or Step Aerobics,’ Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 25(5), p. S81, 1993).
- Studies find an inverse relationship between injury risk and the number of years involved in athletic activity. Relative newcomers to a sport are significantly MORE likely to be injured than individuals who have been training for many years (American Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 16(3), pp. 285-294, 1988, and also Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 149 (11), pp. 2565-2568, 1989).
- Research suggests that running injuries could be cut by around 25 percent with strength training, but that is a conservative estimate (Sport for All: Sport Injuries and Their Prevention, Council of Europe, Netherlands Institute of Sports Health Care, Oosterbeek, 1989).
Strength Training Improves Performance
- Study in 1999 Journal of Applied Physiology found that improved leg strength and power led to “significant” improvement in running time and efficiency. Some studies even show 10K times can be reduced by 1 minute with as little as ten weeks of weight training.
- Another 1999 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Vol. 86, Issue 5, 1527-1533, May 1999) by Finland researchers found “explosive” strength training (plyometric) exercises added to an endurance program increased running economy by 8%.
Strength Training for Runners: Myth vs. Reality
Facts About Running
Traditional Strength Training Approach for Runners
“New” Smarter Strength Training Approach
Sample Workout Routine for Runners
Here is a sample workout routine I put together for you that helps strengthen your hips, core, upper body, and improve balance. This workout should only take about 20-30 minutes and can be completed 1-2x per week. Before starting any exercise, or nutrition program, you should consult with your doctor.
1a) Exercise Ball Wall Squat
You can perform this exercise with, or without weight, the wall squat puts very little pressure on your lower back
1b) Forward Lunge on Bosu Ball
Beginners should complete forward lunges on a flat surface, can also hold dumbbells at your sides to make the exercise more challenging
2a) Chest Presses on Exercise Ball
You can alternate pressing with each arm, or both together. Beginners should use a stable bench for this exercise, or complete pushups.
2b) Pull-ups, or Lat Pulldowns
I’m demonstrating a pull-up, but you can also use the lat pulldown machine, or even resistance bands
3a) Shoulder Press
Perform standing with knees slightly bent, or seated, neutral grip is easier on the shoulders
3b) Upright Row
You can use an EZ Bar, straight bar, or use dumbbells, which I prefer because it takes pressure off the wrists
4a) Exercise Ball Rotations
Beginners do not need to use any weight
4b) Lying Hip Extension with Leg Curl on Exercise Ball
Advanced- complete with one leg. Beginners can do hip extensions on a flat surface without an exercise ball.
The above workout routine uses basic movements that will help strengthen your entire body and prevent injury. I did not include any arms exercises, because in most cases your arms are engaged while doing compound chest, back, and shoulder exercises.
If you need to emphasize any particular area of your body more, you can simply add more exercises. In addition, if you have the space and equipment set up, you can complete all the aforementioned exercises as a circuit (sequentially with little rest) 1-3x. You may also choose not to pair the exercises together, but complete each separately. Pairing exercises, however, speeds up the workout.
More Exercises to Consider:
Squat on Bosu Ball (or Balance Board)
Using a resistance band around my knees to strengthen hip abductors, usually weak in runners
Bulgarian Split Squat
Beginners should not use any weight, get a nice hip flexor stretch at the bottom of this movement
Chest Press with Resistance Bands
Keep chest out, shoulders back, head neutral
On a smith machine, pulling body towards the bar
Feel free to use a barbell, or EZ bar
Use an overhand grip about shoulder width apart
Slow and controlled, be sure to extend your leg all the way out
Bosu Ball Crunches
A personal favorite, make sure your hips are high up on the ball, twist as you contract
Pumping Arms with Dumbbells
This is a very “sports specific” exercise that helps strengthen the arm pump while running
Here are some online resources I came across as I was putting together this report:
I want to send a special thanks to Kafi Drexel and the NY1 news team for having me on (again) as a fitness expert. The last time I was featured on NY1, the topic discussed was “Strength Training Can Help You Shed Pounds“. I also wanted to thank NYC based elite running coach Spencer Casey for sharing his insights into strength training for runners.
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