Are you a runner that doesn’t lift weights? Read this to see where you’re going wrong.
Many people think that to get better as a runner you simply have to run more, and while there’s some truth to the idea that running more will make you better, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that.
Why Training Your Legs is Important
As a runner, strength work is very important and shouldn’t be overlooked, but many runners avoid it as “they don’t want to be bodybuilders”. The truth is, when you step into the gym, that’s not your goal and that statement is as wild as saying “I don’t want to jog to the bus stop because I don’t want to be an Olympic Marathon champion”, it’s never going to happen.
Your goals when you step into the gym should be to build your strength, improve your power, and develop a stronger and more efficient body that can help you to glide over any course.
By building stronger leg muscles, you’re also building more efficient and tolerant muscles that can withstand repeated stress and keep going after long periods of time. They’re better at utilizing oxygen too, a vital factor that impacts how fast you can run and how long for.
Lower body strength training for runners isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about building a more efficient and effective body.
Not only will it help you to build a strong foundation for full-body health, strength, and fitness but it can also help you to reduce your chances of getting injured, something every runner would love.
How to Structure Your Training
Despite what you may have heard, no, running does not count as leg day, no matter how much ground you cover. Strength training should be its own form of exercise and not something you just get in when you can or try to replace with something else.
However, unlike other forms of exercise where you should leave a day in-between, strength training on a run day is something you should consider. You don’t have to do it all the time, especially when completing a heavy lower body session, but if you alternate with runs one day and strength work the next you won’t leave your body any time to recover.
By training on the same day you can give yourself a day off, or you can perform a recovery run on the following day.
When scheduling your week the best plan of action would be to consider your current run schedule and see where you can fit 2-3 gym sessions in per week with at least one of those being focused on heavy lower bodywork.
The lower body exercises every runner should do
When it comes to lower body exercises you have to be careful with what you include. Different movements have different benefits but the list below is essential for any runner.
The basic squat is an essential move for any runner as it gives you the most bang for your buck. You can expect to hit your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core, all from this one movement.
If you’re new to lifting weights you should start with something simple, like a Goblet squat or a Dumbbell squat, and work your way up to a full barbell back squat.
Targeting your Hamstrings, glutes, core, and lower back the Deadlift is a fantastic movement that will help you build great strength, stability, and posture. If you haven’t done them before it’s best to get a coach and learn the basics of the technique.
Many runners avoid deadlifts for the fear of getting injured but just like any activity, that will only happen if you try to go too heavy too quickly with incorrect form. Perfecting the deadlift and slowly building up your weight is a great way to strengthen your body and protect yourself from injuries.
Lunges are great for building lower body strength and stability and targeting the key muscles that you use when you run, namely the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
With a weight in each hand walking lunges require you to walk forward, along a track, alternating legs, and are a fantastic way to improve your core strength, balance, and lower body efficiency.
With so many athletic movements coming from the glutes and hips, including walking lunges in your routine is an easy way to target these essential areas.
Although many lower body movements do target the calves there’s nothing like spending some real-time developing this muscle. Whether you perform them with a dumbbell in one hand or a barbell on your back, your gym may even have a specialist calf raise machine, training this muscle can help you to prevent fatigue on your runs, especially when you hit the hills.
The leg press machine has two benefits for any runner.
Glute Bridge / Single Leg Glute Bridge
Both formats of this exercise are great for targeting your glutes and hamstrings and should be considered essential for any runner. Not enough time is spent on strengthening the hips, glutes, or working on single-sided movements that can help with the transfer of power. The Glute Bridge, in any form, is a great way to achieve all of that.
Any type of plyometric work, including squat jumps, jumping lunges, or box jumps are good ways of adding some explosive, power-based movements into your workout.
Train your fast-twitch muscle fibers and activate the quads, hamstrings, and calves with these explosive movements that are sure to help you out as your burst from the pack or make a strong drive to the finish line.
Lower body strength training is just as essential for runners as actually going out and hitting the pavement. There has long been a myth that lifting weights will make you big and bulky, slowing you down and harming your running ability. The truth is when you lift weights you will be building a stronger, more efficient, and effective body that can withstand the stress of your runs. Look at the top level and you will see that all the best runners, in any discipline, include strength training in their training schedules and note it as an essential part of their training.
If you’re new to the gym, you may want to consult a coach or trainer first, but by starting with the movements above and building a well-rounded training routine, you will soon start to see an improvement in your running ability.