Written by Maziar David Ajtar – www.maz-pt.com
Many endurance athletes believe that participating in strength training will make them bulk up, therefore making them heavier and slowing them down. However, that is simply not true – if done correctly it will in fact make you a faster and more efficient athlete, increasing your strength, power and explosiveness.
Increasing your strength leads to increased endurance. Therefore, you’ll be able to run longer as your body won’t become fatigued as quickly.
Running puts a lot of stress on the body, which over time can result in injury, however the stronger you get, the more resilient you become to the strain of running. I believe that strengthening the hips and gluteus is one of the best moves a runner can take. Runners’ knee is often caused by tightness or weakness in the hips, causing compensations elsewhere in the body, resulting in knee injuries. Strengthening the hips and gluteus is also one of the most valuable treatments for another common running injury – IT band syndrome.
Here are 5 of the best strength exercises for endurance athletes to improve your running
#1 Pistol squats with TRX
Pistol squats put a lot of emphasis on your gluteus and hamstrings, as I mentioned earlier, strengthening these muscles is ideal for runners.
How to do it:
- From a standing position, extend your arms so they’re parallel to the floor and you are holding the TRX.
- Extend one leg out in front of you.
- Squat down as low as you can on your standing leg, keeping your other leg extended in front of you. Try to keep the shin of your standing leg as close to vertical as you can.
- Return to the starting position and repeat. Try and do 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
#2 Calf raises
These strengthen your calves and your ankles. When you strengthen these muscles, it allows you to push harder off the ground, this means you spend more time airborne, making your stride longer, which in turn will increase your speed. Strengthening of these muscles can also help to prevent shin splints.
- Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step, with your heels hanging off. Then lift one leg in the air.
- Use the calf muscles of your standing leg to raise your heel as high as you can.
- Next, drop your heel back down as low as you can.
- Do 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
Planks are ideal for gaining core strength, which will help with posture whilst running. There are lots of different variations of the plank; one I do a lot with my clients is the 5-minute plank, which is great for blasting your abs.
- Start in a full plank with your arms fully extended and hold this pose for a minute.
- Drop to your elbows and hold an elbow plank for 30 seconds.
- Do a side plank for 30 seconds, then switch sides and hold for another 30 seconds.
- Return to an elbow plank but lift one leg in the air and hold for 30 seconds. Then hold the other leg in the air for 30 seconds.
- Hold a full plank for 30 seconds.
- Finally return to an elbow plank and hold for a minute.
Tips: If you find this too hard, you can just do an elbow plank, or take a short rest between each movement.
#4 Side walk with resistance bands
This exercise will strengthen your iliotibial bands, as well as helping to strengthen and stabilise your hip abductors.
- Loop the resistance band around your ankles
- Stand with your feet hip width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
- Step to the side with one foot then step your other foot over so you’re in the original stance.
- Keep repeating this for about 20 feet, then step in the opposite direction for another 30 feet.
Tips: If it’s too hard with the band looped around your ankles, try looping it just above your knees instead which should make it easier.
Deadlifts will improve your hamstring, glutes and lower back strength. A strong back will help with your posture whilst running and weakness in these areas make runners especially prone to injuries. Deadlifts are also great for IT band rehabilitation.
- With a barbell on the floor, stand with your feet hip width apart, toes facing forwards and the middle of your foot underneath the bar.
- Keeping your shins vertical, bend your knees and reach down to grab the bar. Make sure you keep your back straight.
- Stand up, bringing the bar with you and pulling your shoulders back.
- Keeping your back straight, lower the bar back to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.
Take home message
Strength and endurance go hand in hand. As you become stronger your performance in endurance events will improve.