01 August 2009

Leg and core strengthening routine for runners

Weight training as a cross training activity for runners is one subject that splits opinion. I've heard it said by some people that the only possible result that could come from weight training is to add unwanted muscle mass and thus become heavier and slower.

On the other hand there are just as many if not more people who recommended weight training as a way of strengthening your muscles and thus ensuring that they are better equipped to withstand the stresses and strains that can come with running.

I was recalling recently the last time I routinely trained with weights, back in my twenties when I would regularly hit the gym four or five times a week mainly to weight train, though I also would do some some cardio work each week too. I do not ever recall suffering from running related lower leg injuries throughout that period.

Then three years ago when I took up running seriously and soon after the injuries started. Could it be possible that one reason I get injured is that I no longer train my legs with weights?

Well acting on the presumption that it could be, I've decided a twice weekly weight training / strengthening routine for my lower body and core can only benefit my running.

Here's what I'm doing;

1. Start with a five minute warm up on the Exercycle to warm up and loosen those leg muscles.

2. One legged squats. These are great for runners because when we run we are always effectively balancing on one leg. Keep the knee in line with your second or third toe, squat to your limit and stand up. The movement should be steady controlled. Build up to 20 or 25 for each leg.

3. Leg extension. Great for building up the muscles around the knee. Try to open your feet as you extend your legs. Knees should remain in line with the feet. Again build up to 20.

3. Lunges. Standing tall, step forward about three feet, drop the rear knee straight to the floor (don't touch the floor), rise again then step back so your feet are together. A variation would be to step forward and the end of each lunge rather than stepping back. Try for 20 on each leg.

4. Leg curls. It's important to also workout the hamstrings so as to avoid muscle imbalances. Simply lift your feet to your butt. Again aim for 20.

I do those four exercises as one large 'super set' in which each exercise is performed one after the other with no rest. I'll do the super set two or three times.

5. Kickbacks. Great for working the glutes which are important for maintaining an efficient running stride. Standing balanced on one leg, kick the other leg straight back in a steady controlled manner. Go for 20 and repeat on the other leg.

6. Clam. Another good exercise for the glutes. Laying on your side, legs together, knees bent, feet up near your butt. Slowly raise the top knee as far as you can and then lower it . The hips should remain motionless with only the glutes doing the work. Build up to 30 on each side.

I will complete exercises five and six as a super set, two or three times.

7. Calf raises. The final leg exercise is calf raises. Stand on a block of timber or a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Lower the heels and raise to your maximum. Build to 20. Two or three sets. For added difficulty try holding some hand weights.

8. Leg raises. A strong core is essential for good running form and one of my favorite exercises is the leg raise. Lie on your back, legs out stretched, slowly raise your legs to about 90 degrees and the lower your feet again though keep them off the ground. Try to keep your lower back pressed against the floor to really feel the abs working and also protect the back. Build up to 20.

9. Front plank. Lie on your front, use your elbows and your toes to support your body. Try and keep your body as straight as possible and hold the pose for up to a minute.

10. Side plank. As above but lie on your side with your elbow supporting your body. Keep your whole body as straight as possible and hold for as long as you can.

I'll do these core exercises as a super set and repeat two or three times.

That completes my strengthening routine for runners.

As I'm not yet running I'm doing this routine twice a week. Most regular runners should only need to, and would probably only find the time, to do this workout once a week, and that's what I'll be doing when I start running again.

Disclaimer: Please note I have no qualifications or training in the area of personal training so please consult your own gym instructor or health professional if you're unsure on whether any of these exercises are right for you.


Ewen August 3, 2009 at 4:20 PM  

I like all of those. Nice demonstration of the side plank with the neck in line with the spine. However, you could have picked a female runner to do the demonstrations.

Easy win to your boys against the Sef Efricans. Hope we can offer a bit more opposition this coming weekend!

Bruce August 3, 2009 at 10:40 PM  

Thanks and sorry you had to put up with my ugly mug shots. I think the AB's will just be happy to get home and play some more games in their own back yard.

Fine Life Folk August 4, 2009 at 6:42 AM  

Most people equate balance with the feet alone. I reckon that it also has something to do with one's knees. Am I right? If so, then these knee exercises will do me great wonders. I'm such clumsy with anything to do with using balance especially when I tried ice-skating twice.

Aaron August 6, 2009 at 6:50 AM  

Thanks for this post and the other one on stretching. I am planning on incorporating some of these into my own program.

Hope they help get you back to runinng injury free.

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