Now I've come to the strengthening part. The reasons for making it a super important and regular part of your training regime is simple, TO PREVENT INJURY.
In fact it seems that so far everything we've covered is concerned with injury prevention. Mainly because this is the reason so many of you have large amounts of time away from the sport you love.
Again I'm using running purely because most of the people we communicate with here are runners and I am a runner. These principles, and to a large degree these exercises and drills, will work for most everyday athletes whether it be running, cycling, walking, swimming etc, etc.
Before I carry on I just want to make it absolutely clear that this is not body building. Yes you will lift weights, Yes it will make your muscles more defined, Yes it will make your muscles bigger but it is purely intended to make you a better, stronger more robust runner/everyday athlete, NOT Arnie.
As you've now possibly identified that there are some weaknesses in your body (I know sometimes it's hard to admit it but we all do). It's time to strengthen them. Otherwise you are basically strengthening the movements that form your running mechanics.
As I don't know you individually I will go through a few things, running related, that I use with my clients that come from a Bio-Mechanical perspective and are beneficial to good running gait or technique.
I'll start here with core work as I know how much everyone loves doing this (core = bore...YAAAAAWN). Without going into too much detail, it's really, really important as without a good one, your running will SUCK!
Poor core control will be a catalyst for discomfort in the lower back, hips, knees, ankles and more. Good control will strengthen the connection between upper and lower body, resulting in your arm movement directly affecting your leg movement and overall running efficiency.
Who doesn't want to be more efficient?
Some of my favourite core exercises will follows. The Repetition (Rep) range for these is high as your core responds well to volume and the idea here is to enable you to keep your core engaged throughout your run. This could be a long time so volume is key.
Practicing the breathing that you've learned so far with all the exercises below. This will help you keep good form and posture whilst executing them.
CORE WORKOUT with progressions
3 or more times a week, forever.
3 - 5 sets of 8 - 15 reps - CLICK ON THE EXERCISES TO VIEW DEMO VIDEO
I tend to include single leg (uni-lateral) work into clients programs too as it is often the case that one side of the body is stronger than the other. It could be due to a previous injury or simply that you're heavily single side dominant. It's a great way to work on increased stability for your running technique.
If you're not familiar with single leg work. Using body weight only and keeping the reps relatively high will ensure you get plenty of practice allowing the body to adapt to the exercises. Weighted progressions can come later.
SINGLE LEG WORKOUT - Body weight only
Minimum twice a week for 6 - 8 weeks.
3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 reps each side
To access strength endurance, keep these exercises body weight but increase the reps to 15 - 20 each side. CLICK ON THE EXERCISES TO VIEW DEMO VIDEO
Weighted Progressions purely for strengthening work, go heavy and reduce the reps to 3 - 8 each side.
All the work above can be done with little to no equipment and at home. The effect on your running will be immense and help make frequent, common injuries a thing of the past. If you feel you want to take things further and increase your running strength beyond that which we've already covered. Then when it finally becomes possible to get in a gym, the following work will be a natural progression.
Now you've built your foundations its time to start working on both sides at the same time (bi-laterally). Adding in some compound strength work like squats and deadlifts will ensure you build an incredible base of strength without the worry of adding too much muscle but certainly loads of strength. You don't have to be big to be strong and having too much muscle when running means you've got to cart it all about.
There are two ways to look at doing this. One is strength endurance using light weights for high reps of 15 - 20. Then on to pure strength, big weight and shorter reps of 3 - 8.
Initially you would do strength endurance work first, for about 6 - 8 weeks, to ensure body's adaptation to the exercises and build that endurance capacity. Then you would move to pure strength for a similar amount of time. Both of these phases will be best performed for 3 - 5 sets and although for endurance strength, 5 sets of 20 reps will take a long time. The benefits are huge.
COMPOUND STRENGTH WORKOUT -
Bear with Alan Thrall for the top 4 exercise demos. He is very good as I wouldn't have put him in. Reminds me I should be making these vids myself.
Front Squat - Quads & Glutes
Deadlifts - Whole posterior chain, glutes, upperback, Lower back, grip
Back Squat - Hamstrings, Glutes
RDL - Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower back
Calf Raise - Calfs
Walking Lunges - Complete lower body locomotion movements (I've used a single kettlebell here as I feel it's a great way to help stabilise the core during locomotion. You can use dumbbells, a barbell or any kind of heavy bag over your shoulders)
If you're looking to add some upper body, highly recommended. Refer back to a previous blog 'Running Strong - Crank & Pistons'. For ideas on ideal runners upper body exercises. You can use the reps and sets I've spoken about here and also add them onto the above workouts for added variety.
Slowly but surely you're creating the foundation of strong running mechanics. You can incorporate this into your program now whether you're a new or seasoned runner. It's always the right time to start.
In Fitness & In Health
John 'Strengthen Your Weaknesses' Withinshaw