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Whether you’re just starting out or have been pounding the pavement for years, incorporating strength training into your running routine is a game-changer. But why?

Engaging in regular muscular strength and endurance training has major benefits for runners. Which includes preventing or decreasing risk of injury through strengthening the muscles and connective tissue, increasing running economy through improved neuromuscular control and power. And lastly, a quicker recovery due to an increase in tolerance to exercise and decreased need to exert as much energy.

When choosing which exercises to complete in your strength training, it is important to choose exercises which work the main muscle groups of the body; particularly the lower limbs. In addition to this, single leg exercises should also be included, as running is essentially a single leg work out. However, it is important to start with body weight, or with a lighter load and slowly increase your reps/sets/resistance. This is called progressive overload. By doing so, this will ensure you are not putting to much pressure on your body, by letting it adapt at a controlled and safe pace.

So, what exercises should you do? Here are some important ones to consider:

1. Bulgarian Split Squat

This variation of a squat is a single leg exercise, which targets the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings all at once! Additionally, it also works to improve core control, balance and mobility. To set up for a Bulgarian split squat, have your rear foot raised on a bench or step, keeping all of your weight in the front foot on the ground. From this position, bend your front knee, and bring your body as far toward to the ground as comfortable. Then drive through the heel to straighten your front knee, returning to starting position.

2. Arabesque/Single Leg Deadlift

A arabesque exercise is a good functional movement which targets your posterior chain (back, glutes and hamstrings). In addition, this exercise will target your core muscle group, through requiring balance and control. Begin standing with your feet hip distance apart, keeping your knees soft the whole time. To start the movement, shift all your weight to one leg, whilst the other leg extends straight behind you. Continue tilting forward as far as comfortable. Return back to the starting position by bringing the leg in the air, back toward you to return to standing on two feet.

3. Hip Bridge

A hip bridge is a great hip hinge movement which targets the glute muscles, with secondary hamstring and quadricep work. Similarly, hip bridges also use the muscles in the back and core to stabilise the hips which makes it a great all rounder exercise! Whilst the hip bridge has a few variations, its best to start double leg, and overtime, progress to a single leg option. Begin lying on your back, with your knees bent and feet hip distance apart on the ground. From this position, tilt your pelvis forward, bringing your hips off the ground. Squeeze your glutes, then return your hips back to the ground.

4. Hip Flexion

Working the hip flexors (muscles at the front of your hips) is super important, as this muscle groups main action is pulling your leg forward to take a step. In fact, hip flexor muscle groups take a lot of load and require high power outputs when running, therefore strength is key to reduce risk of injury. Furthermore, there are various exercises which strengthen the hip flexors, however the simplest is a standing hip flexion exercise. Start by standing up straight, with your feet hip distance apart. Shift all of your weight onto one leg, whilst the other leg’s knee bends up to hip height (similar to a march). Return back to standing on two legs. To progress this exercise, add a band around your feet, or some ankle weights.

5. Calf Raise

The calf muscles are vital for running. As these muscles help you push forward and soften your landing during every step you take. Therefore making them essential for providing both power and stability when running. Calf raises can be performed either by standing double leg on the ground. Then progressed through standing on the edge of a step to increase range, or single leg. Start by standing, with your feet hip distance apart. While keeping the knees straight, raise your heels off the ground, return to starting position by bringing the heels back down to the ground. You can hold onto something (i.e. handrail or back of chair) for balance to keep the movement controlled, however try not to push any of your weight through your upper body.

References:

‌Fredericson, M., & Moore, T. (2005). Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle- and Long-Distance Runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America16(3), 669–689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2005.03.001

Guglielmo, L., Greco, C., & Denadai, B. (2008). Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy. International Journal of Sports Medicine30(01), 27–32. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2008-1038792

‌Šuc, A., Šarko, P., Pleša, J., & Kozinc, Ž. (2022). Resistance Exercise for Improving Running Economy and Running Biomechanics and Decreasing Running-Related Injury Risk: A Narrative Review. Sports10(7), 98. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10070098

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