What do runners love to do? Run, of course!
But working the same muscle groups over and over again can lead to fatigue and injury over the long haul. Savvy runners mix it up with other training to keep running longer, stronger. Here are a few pro tips to try.
Run better, longer & stronger
Lower Body: Work the muscles that propel your legs and stabilize your knees
When you run, your legs need to drive you forward, absorb your landing, then propel you in stride again. Building your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings will help you accelerate with more force and cycle faster to your next step.
“With a regular strength-training routine, you’ll build muscle to make you leaner, more powerful, and less prone to injury.”
— Amy Roberts, NASM CPT, Women’s Health
Runners also need to build the strength that they can’t get while running. Everything from your glutes down to your calves fires as you double-down on those ups! As you strength train for more endurance, use a weight that’s heavy enough to fatigue you during your rep scheme. Pretty soon, those steeps and canyons won’t seem quite so mean!
Lower body muscles for explosive acceleration and stride propulsion
The goal is to keep doing what you love: running. By exercising your lower body muscles, you will find yourself in a better place to avoid injury and run more.
6 lower body builders to try
- Leg Press: 4-5 sets of 1-2 minute reps
- Leg Extension: 2 sets of 1-2 minute reps
- Leg Curl: 2 sets of 1-2 minute reps
- Hip Abductor/Adductor: 2 sets of 1-2 minute reps
- Glute: 2 sets of 1-2 minute reps
- Calf: 2 sets of 1-2 minute reps
||"Hitting the weights is a good thing for runners to do … and don’t be afraid to go heavy."
— Jeff Gaudette, Competitor.com
Upper Body: Increase stability and control for better running form
Keep your body in balance as you run. It helps you keep a strong stride rhythm while holding an efficient posture that minimizes unnecessary movement.
“If I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn't really bother me. I do a lot of hamstring curls and leg extensions.”
— Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, born with scoliosis and still shatters running records
A strong back impacts everything you do — from simply standing up straight to negotiating uneven terrain as you move — and increases your balance and agility overall. Since running challenges you to keep balance during asymmetric motion, your core and back are key to keeping it all together without looking like you’re flagging someone down for help.
Exercises for the stability and control while running.
- Better postural control
- Improved balance
- Increased responsiveness to unforeseen obstacles
- Protection from injury
3 back and core builders to try
- Lat Pull Down: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Row: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Back Extension: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Intervals: Boost your running endurance
In addition to strength training, interval training is key to improved running performance. Intervals are short, intense bursts followed by recovery sets of equal or longer times.
||“To get the most benefit from those sprints, however, you need to go after the easy sections of a run with just as much care.”
— Laurel Leicht, “Running Intervals The Right Way,” MensRunning.com
Interval training puts your strength training to the test and helps you develop more endurance for those challenging runs. Tacking on some interval training to your routine doesn’t take long and will pay huge dividends outside.
Strong Stride Intervals: 5 sets of 2-minute runs; 2-minute rest in-between
Once you’re finished strength training, hop onto the treadmill for a few sets of interval training. During each 2-minute interval, choose a pace that challenges you to finish, and then let yourself recover between each burst. You can bump up the incline as well to simulate steeper terrain.
Interval: 2-minute run at 8 mph and 1.5 incline
Since my normal pace is 6 mph and I usually run with the treadmill set at 0.5, bumping up both the speed and the incline for the 2-minute interval definitely gets my heart pumping and works my legs—without feeling unsafe or unsteady.
Recovery: 2-minute walk at 4.0 speed and 0.5 incline
Resting between sets is just as important the intervals so you body can recover for the next one. For me, a fast walk gets me down from red-line effort but keeps me loose so I’m ready to ramp it up for the next one.
Everyone will have their own “sweet spot” for training based on their body, age, experience, and overall health, all of which will evolve over time.
Cybex helps you do what you love—longer, stronger, safer, smarter. Work some strength training into your running routine to go farther, faster, and keep you logging those miles.
Running Workouts at the Cybex Workout Center
Our group of trainers have created four free progressive workouts for people who want to improve their running, which you can find at the Cybex Workout Center.