Bodybuilding for runners | Strength exercises

Strength training for runners should be pretty much non-negotiable. Devoting one or two days a week to resistance training is extremely beneficial for improving overall performance, as it helps you prevent injury and increase speed.

“Strength work accomplishes three big goals for runners,” says USATF-certified running coach Jason Fitzgerald, founder of Strength Running in Denver, Colorado. “It prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues; it helps you run faster by improving neuromuscular coordination and power; and it improves running economy by encouraging gait coordination and efficiency.

This all sounds good, but if you’re unfamiliar with the weight room, you might have some doubts. The key to remember is that you train for strengthnot for massive muscle gains.

The stimulus needed to build muscle – in a way that wouldn’t be beneficial for running – is much higher than people think, and unless you lift fairly heavy weights frequently and/or you If you don’t follow a high-calorie diet, you’re unlikely to build muscle, says Joe Holder, trainer at the Nike+ Run Club in New York. “Just think about strength training once or twice a week, focusing on compound movements, like a lunge or a squat, and strengthening areas that could lead to increased injury if they’re weak, like the hips.”

NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Set

Also, keep in mind that strength training for runners doesn’t have to be intense in a heart-pounding way. “Some strength workouts, like CrossFit WODs or circuit-based fitness classes, include too many metabolic or cardio components to be effective in prioritizing runners’ primary goals, which are strength and power,” Fitzgerald says. He says runners get enough cardio, so he recommends focusing on relatively heavy weight for a moderate number of reps with full recovery.

Remember that your own body can serve as weight. So if picking up a barbell or dumbbells is a big push for you, ditching the weights and adding bodyweight exercises instead can still help build strength, especially if you’re new to weight training.

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How to choose the right weight

Before adding resistance to an exercise, make sure you are mastering perfect form with your own body weight. If you’re new to the weight room, focus on these four things to help you decide how much weight to add:

  • Start with a weight that you know will be too easy
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • See how you feel and slowly add more weight from there
  • When the last reps of the third set are really hard, start with that weight next time.

    You can increase the weight (and decrease the reps) every two weeks, the same way you increase your running mileage in a training plan.

    3 Common Bodybuilding Mistakes Runners Make

    Remember that you are a runner who uses strength training to improve your running, not a weightlifter who also runs. Here, Fitzgerald shares some common weightlifting mistakes to avoid:

    → Go too heavy: The weight room is no place for the ego, so check it out the door. “Not all lifts have to be super heavy and super hard. Don’t risk hurting yourself trying to be a hero in the weight room.

    →Lifting too light: On the other hand, if you’re always lifting light weights for high reps, you’re building endurance in the weight room. This is a good place to start if you’re new to weight training, but want to work on getting heavier with fewer reps. “Runners work on their endurance all the time in every race. The focus of bodybuilding should be strength and power.

    → Focus on specific parts of the body: “Runners don’t need to lift as often, for as long, or isolate individual muscles. You can lift full body twice a week for 30 to 60 minutes,” says Fitzgerald. You will get everything you need with this setup.

      Essential strength exercises for runners

      Below are nine strength training exercises that are most beneficial for runners according to Holder and Fitzgerald. To create your own workout, you can choose one from each zone (upper body, lower body, or core) and create a three-movement circuit. Each movement is demonstrated by Christi Marraccini, instructor and production manager at NEO U.

      For a quick cheat sheet of moves, scroll to the bottom of this article and pin, share, or screenshot the workout.

      Upper body

      1. Push-ups

      Works: chest and core muscles

      Start in a high plank, wrists under shoulders, trunk engaged so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Bend the elbows to lower the chest to the floor, then press up to return to the starting position. Keep core tight throughout, don’t let hips dip or lift. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

      Beginner: use your own body weight
      Advanced: add a weighted plate (15-35 pounds) to the back

      2. Curved on the row

      Works: back and core muscles

      Start standing, gently bend your knees, with dumbbells in each hand, palms facing inward. Hinge at the hips, sending the buttocks back, so that the arms hang perpendicular to the floor. Keep your back flat, core engaged. Bend the elbows to pull the weights up to the ribs, pulling the shoulder blades back and down. Lower the weights down, extending your arms. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

      Beginners: use your own body weight
      Advanced: use 10-25 pound dumbbells

      3. Inverted Flight

      Works: the back of the shoulder and the rhomboid muscles (mid back)

      Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells in hand. Hinge at the hips sending the buttocks back, so that the torso is nearly parallel to the floor, knees slightly bent. Let the dumbbells hang down, palms facing each other. Keeping your back flat and core engaged, raise your arms up and out until they’re in line with your shoulders. Your upper body will form a “T”, with a slight bend in your elbows. Lower the weights with control. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

      Beginners: use 5 pound dumbbells
      Advanced: Use 10-15 pound dumbbells


      4. Plank

      stretches for sitting all day stretches for tight leg muscles

      Julia Hembree Smith

      Works: core muscles

      Place the hands directly below the shoulders on the floor and step the feet back, hip-width apart. Engage the core and squeeze the glutes to stabilize the body. Keep the neck and spine neutral. You should form a straight line from head to heels. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat for 3 sets.

      Beginners: use body weight
      Advanced: add a weighted plate (10-25 pounds) to your back

      5. Leg Raise

      Works: abdominal muscles

      Start lying face up on a mat with your hands beside your hips for support. Raise the legs upwards so that the body forms an “L”. Engage the core and slowly lower the legs until the feet float just above the mat. Slowly raise legs back to starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.

      Beginners: use body weight
      Advanced: add a 10 to 25 pound medicine ball between the ankles

      6. One-sided weighted sit-up

      Works: core muscles, including obliques

      Lie face up on the mat with your feet flat on the floor and a dumbbell in your right hand extended up so that the wrist is directly over the shoulder. Engage the core to lift the chest and dumbbell toward the ceiling, entering a full sit-up. Keeping your arm straight, slowly lower back to the floor. Repeat for 12 reps then switch to the other side. It is a set. Complete 3 sets.

      Beginners: use a 5 pound dumbbell
      Advanced: use a dumbbell over 15 pounds

      Lower body

      7. Deadlift

      Works: Hamstrings, glutes, back and core muscles

      Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand facing down in front, palms facing you. Hinge at the hips by sending the buttocks back, the back flat and the trunk engaged, the weights remaining close to the legs. Focus only on the hips, not the squats. When your torso is nearly parallel to the floor, cross your feet and engage the glutes to pull yourself up. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

      Beginners: use 15 to 25 pound weights
      Advanced: use weights over 25 pounds or a weighted bar

      8. Slot

      Works: Quads, thighs and glutes

      Stand up straight holding a dumbbell in each hand, facing down to the sides. Take a big step forward with the right leg and lower body until the right thigh is parallel to the floor and the right shin is vertical, the left knee is hovering just above the floor. Press on the right heel to stand up. Continue on the right leg for 8 to 12 repetitions then repeat on the opposite leg. It is a set. Complete 3 sets.

      Beginners: use 10 to 25 pound dumbbells
      Advanced: use dumbbells over 25 pounds

      9. One-leg glute bridge

      Exercises: hip and gluteal muscles

      Lie face up on the mat with your feet flat and your knees bent. Raise the right leg, knees aligned. Press into the left heel to lift the hips off the mat. Come back down slowly. Repeat for 15 reps. Then repeat on the opposite leg. It is a set. Complete 2 sets.

      Beginners: use body weight
      Advanced: Add a 10-pound weighted plate or dumbbell to the hips, hold it in place with your hands

      bodybuilding for runners

      Erin Benner

      Images: Julia Hembree Smith

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