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Strength Training for Runners: Make the Switch

Updated on June 14, 2007

"A runner with strong legs but weak arm muscles and weak core muscles will always be slower than a runner with total-body fitness."

Make the Switch

You may not be ready for an entirely new program, as seen in my Hubs "Strength Training for Runners: Plan A" and "Strength Training for Runners: Plan B". But, if you are already doing some strength training on your own the following are some suggestions on exercises/movement that will help target runner specific areas of your body. These five smart substitutions will make your current strength-training routine more runner-specific.


Instead of: Bench Press

Try This: Alternating Dumbbell Row- as seen in Plan B: Exercise 2

Why: It works the muscles of your middle and upper back and your core, all of which are important for maintaining good running form. Because the bench press is done lying down and works just your chest, it doesn't carry over to improved road performance.


Instead of: Lat Pull-down

Try This: Mixed-Grip Chinup- as seen in Plan A: Exercise 2

Why: It strengthens your lats, the largest muscles in your body (located on your back), which stabilize your spine as you rotate your torso. The mixed grip forces your core muscles to contract maximally in order to keep your body from twisting as you pull yourself up.


Instead of: Leg Curl

Try This: Stability-Ball Leg Hip Extension/Leg Curl- as seen in Plan B: Exercise 1

Why: It forces you to stabilize the weight in multiple directions, while training both functions of the hamstrings--knee flexion and hip extension--simultaneously. The ordinary leg curl doesn't require your hamstrings to control the weight in all directions.


Instead of: Leg Extension

Try This: Overhead Lunge- as seen in Plan A: Exercise 1

Why: It trains one leg at a time, in an upright, moving position that works all of your thigh muscles together. Your core works overtime stabilizing the overhead weight. The regular leg extension isolates your quads, which isn't specific to running.


Instead of: Crunch

Try This: Scorpion- as seen in Plan A: Exercise 3

Why: It works your entire core in multiple ways by incorporating hip rotation, hip flexion, and upper-body stabilization into the same movement. Crunches work your ab muscles through a very small range of motion, which is ineffective at training your entire core.

To learn more about strength training for runners please see my Hub "Strength Training for Runners" and try Plan A or Plan B, which are designed to help improve your runner in just 20 minutes twice a week. Please contact me if you have any questions on these programs, or any suggestions for exercises to add!


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