Coaching

A Strength Routine for Runners

By Nike Running

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

Supplement your miles with strength training, and you'll boost your running speed and endurance.

Even if you would always rather be running, adding strength training to your routine is crucial. The stronger you are, the easier it is to carry your body weight over any distance, and the less likely you'll be to tire out. Translation: You get faster, you can run further and your miles feel more fun. This total-body workout covers everything you need.

Most runners prefer to spend their time on the road versus at the bottom of a squat or pressing a dumbbell overhead. We get that. If you love your sport, you want to do your sport. Plus, to get better at running, you've got to run.

But strength training can actually improve your running, helping you get speedier, go for longer and improve your form.

"Every time you land on a single foot, your whole body has to be balanced in such a way that your posture remains upright and you're not twisting or bending to either side."

Janet Hamilton, Running Strong Coach

The reason is pretty simple: The stronger you are, the easier it is to carry your body weight over any distance, and the more resistant you'll be to fatigue, says strength and conditioning coach Janet Hamilton, the owner of the Atlanta-based company Running Strong. Plus, total-body strength will help prepare you for the balancing act that running demands. "Every time you land on a single foot, your whole body has to be balanced in such a way that your posture remains upright and you're not twisting or bending to either side", says Hamilton. Resistance training helps create that kind of stability.

Dig into the physiology of running and strength training, and you'll see how complementary they really are. A quick biology refresher: Any low-intensity, endurance-based activity—ahem, running—helps build type I, or "slow-twitch", muscle fibres. These fibres can fire repeatedly with minimal fatigue, helping you churn through a long run at a steady speed.

Your second group of muscle fibres, type II, or "fast-twitch", fuel quick, explosive, all-out bouts—say, racing the mile. You can build those with speed and hill work, and on long runs by continuing past the point when you start to get tired, notes Hamilton.

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

The benefit of strength training is that it can develop both types of muscle fibres.

While runners may see a bulky gym rat when they think of lifting weights, putting on more muscle can actually help you speed up and tighten your running form. But hey, don't just take our word for it: Runners who performed a strength-training programme two to three times a week for eight to 12 weeks showed significant improvements in running economy, or how efficiently they run, according to a review of studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. And endurance performance and VO2 max also improved after strength training in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"Strength training is your insurance policy to not get hurt."

Chris Bennett, Nike Running global head coach

What's more, Bennett says, if you have stronger, more durable legs, you're more likely to take on harder runs with less effort. And that means fewer injuries. "Strength training is your insurance policy to not get hurt", he says. That's because strength training doesn't just strengthen your muscles, explains Hamilton, it also strengthens your bones and connective tissues including your tendons and ligaments.

Running requires you to engage nearly every major muscle group, so you want a strength-training plan that does the same. The eight moves below deliver just that, and most of them work one arm or one leg at a time, just as you do when you run. The combination also requires you to move in multiple planes, improves your core endurance and puts particular focus on the hips, glutes and legs—the muscles that help increase your force production. All of this adds up to you becoming a better runner, and more physically resilient overall.

The Workout

Try this routine twice a week on non-consecutive days, doing two or three rounds of the exercises. Do each exercise until the muscles you're targeting are fatigued (i.e., you can no longer hold good form), whether that means you hit five reps or 20. This helps tailor the plan to your individual strengths and weaknesses, and keeps you challenged but not overwhelmed. Take a 30- to 60-second break between exercises, and a two- to three-minute rest between rounds. This way, you're recovered enough to use heavier weights, and the workout doesn't turn into a cardio routine.

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

01. Lateral Box Push-Up

What it works:

Shoulders, chest, arms, abs

How to do it:
Kneel facing a box that's 6 to 12 inches tall. Get into push-up position with your left hand on the box and right hand on the floor, hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping your abs tight, lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, then push back up and shuffle your hands across the box to the other side, moving your feet in sync and maintaining plank position with your back flat. Repeat the push-up on the opposite side.

Scale it up:
Slow your reps to take 2 to 3 seconds on the push-up descent and ascent.

Scale it down:
Get rid of the box and do a push-up on the ground or on your knees, then shuffle your hands and feet in high-plank position a couple of steps in one direction, do a push-up and shuffle back to the start.

02. Elevated Split Squat

What it works:
Glutes, quads, hamstrings

How to do it:
Stand about 2 feet from a box, facing away, feet hip-width apart. Extend one leg behind you, placing your toes on top of the box. Squat until your back knee is almost touching the floor, keeping your front knee in line with your toes. Return to the start; do reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to lower and 2 to 3 seconds to rise, and/or do the move while holding a weight (like a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball) at your chest, or hold a weight in each hand, keeping your shoulders, back and abs engaged.

Scale it down:
Use a lower box or decrease your range of motion, lowering in the split squat only as far as you can hold good form.

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

03. Bicycle Crunch

What it works:
Abdominals, obliques, hip flexors

How to do it:
Lie face up with your fingers cupped around your ears and knees raised toward your chest, and lift your shoulders off the floor. Bring your left elbow towards your right knee as you simultaneously straighten your left leg so it's hovering a few inches off the floor. Return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to touch your elbow to your knee.

Scale it down:
Instead of continuous reps, lower your shoulders and legs back to the floor to pause between each rep.

04. High Plank

What it works:
Shoulders, arms, abdominals, quads

How to do it:
Hold your position at the top of a push-up, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your back flat (no sagging or hiking up your hips), and your abs, thighs and bum engaged, and look at the floor a few inches in front of your hands. Continue for as long as you can keep good form.

Scale it up:
Lift one leg to balance on a single foot, or try balancing on one hand (you may need to walk your feet further apart to stay stable).

Scale it down:
Drop to your forearms, stacking your shoulders over your elbows.

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

05. Single-Rep Hip Bridge

What it works:
Hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves

How to do it:
Lie face-up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. Extend your right leg so your heel is lifted a couple of inches off the floor, foot flexed, and drive your hips up as high as you can as you squeeze your glutes. Pause at the top, then slowly lower. Repeat on the other leg.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to bridge up and 2 to 3 seconds to lower down, and/or place a dumbbell, kettlebell or plate on your hips, holding it steady with both hands throughout the reps.

Scale it down:
Keep both feet on the floor until you feel strong and stable enough to lift one leg.

06. Lateral Step-Up

What it works:
Hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads

How to do it:
Stand parallel to and near the side of a box, hands on your hips. Step your closest foot on to the box, pushing through the foot to stand up. Slowly lower back to the floor, stepping down on the foot furthest away from the box, to return to the start. Do reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to rise up to the box and 2 to 3 seconds to lower down, and/or do the move while holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball at your chest, or hold a weight in each hand, keeping your shoulders, back and abs engaged.

Scale it down:
Lower the height of the box.

07. One-Arm Bent-Over Row

What it works:
Traps, upper back, lats, arms

How to do it:
Holding a weight in your right hand with a neutral grip, hinge forward with your knees slightly bent until your back is parallel, or near parallel, to the floor. Drive your right elbow up, squeezing your shoulder blades together, until your weight is on your right hip. Lower to return to the start. Do reps, and repeat on the left side.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to row the weight up and 2 to 3 seconds to lower it back down and/or hold another weight steady in your opposite hand throughout the reps.

Scale it down:
Use a lighter weight, or try the move without a weight, concentrating on engaging your lats as you drive your elbow up and lower it back down.

A Strength Routine For Runners
A Strength Routine For Runners

08. Kneeling Curl-to-Press

What it works:
Shoulders, biceps, abs

How to do it:
Kneel and hold a weight in your right hand with a neutral grip. Keeping your abs engaged and glutes tight, curl the weight to your chest, then press it overhead. Reverse the movement to return to the start. Do reps, then repeat on the left side.

Scale it up:
Take 2 to 3 seconds to curl the weight up and 2 to 3 seconds to press it overhead, and/or hold another weight steady in your opposite hand throughout the reps.

Scale it down:
Use a lighter weight.

Check out more workouts on Nike Training Club.

A Strength Routine For Runners

Nike Run Club

Your perfect running partner.

A Strength Routine For Runners

Nike Run Club

Your perfect running partner.

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