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Top strengthening exercises for runners

Strengthening exercises separate to running are important to keep you in the running game for longer, make you faster and prevent those injuries! Aim twice a week.  

General overall progressions of strengthening exercises (some areas of your body may vary in stages): 

Step 1: neuromuscular/endurance “where does it feel… / holds or high reps” 

Step 2: Strength “bit heavier, less reps” 

Step 3: Power “much more force, quickly/explosive, even less reps”

Legs/hips = step 2 and 3 are key 

Core = step 1 and 2 are key 

Home Foundation Strengthening Exercises 

Bird/Dog 

  • This is a “control” exercise, to train your body to maintain a spinal position while moving 

Cues: 
  • Feet & hands hip width apart
  • Lower back in neutral spine 
    • Midway point between arching and rounding back 
    • “Imagine your head, upper back and bottom are all in one line” 
  • Try reaching only arm or only leg, then look to incorporate the opposites (arm/leg) at once 
  • Think reach/lengthen arm away 
    • “Imagine you arm and legs are strings and someone is pulling them at both ends” 
Caution point: 
  • 🚫 hip rotation/twist up to the ceiling
  • “Imagine you’re balancing a tray of drinks on your back (alcoholic or not!), don’t let them fall off” (bonus points if you do try this at home)  
Where should I feel it? 
  • Aim for stable hips and lower back (it’s more how it looks) 

Glute Bridge (double or single) 

Cues: 
  • Feet hip width apart, knees bent 
  • Tuck bottom under then drive bottom up, squeeze bottom  
  • “Make it “segmental” and move like a slinky – peel bottom off floor, then lower/mid/upper back like a string of pearls” 
Caution point: 
  • 🚫 arching through your lower back 
  • Single leg 🚫 hip rotation (keep the hips/pelvis level – think of balancing the tray of drinks again)  
Where should I feel it?
  • Predominantly bottom 

Hamstring Bridge (double or single) 

Cues: 
  • Feet hip width apart + further away from body (the further, the more hamstring) 
  • Tuck bottom under then drive hips up, squeeze bottom  
Caution point: 
  • 🚫 arching through your lower back 
  • Single leg 🚫 hip rotation (keep the hips/pelvis level – think of balancing the tray of drinks again)  
Where should I feel it?
  • Bottom + hamstrings 

Forearm Plank (knees or toes) 

Cues: 
  • Feet narrower than hip width 
  • Tuck bottom under / roll hips backward (bit weird but imagine you’re a naughty dog and you need to tuck your tail between your legs) 
  • Press mid back to the ceiling 
  • Looking down or slightly forward
  • Lengthen crown of head away 
  • Breathe 
Caution points: 
  • Be mindful that you’re not sinking down into your lower back 
Where should I feel it?
  • Lower tummy mainly, if you’re feeling only top of six pack area/rib cage, try the easier option 

Side Lie Hip Abduction: 

Note: When performing this exercise, set up position and cues are key to getting the right activation of the right muscles. 

Cues: 
  • Squeeze tummy/draw belly button in (gently like 20%)
  • Straight top leg/ slightly extended back, small movement up/down 
Caution points: 
  • Keep hips rolled forward 
  • Imagine front hip bones are light headlights shining straight ahead of you, if your headlight shine up diagonally towards the ceiling the hips have started rolling back
Where should I feel it?
  • Gluteus medius (outer top corner of bottom) 

→ Too hard? 

Try a Clam: 

Cues: 
  • Squeeze tummy/draw belly button in (gently like 20%)
  • Feet/bottom in line as if you’re doing the exercise against a wall, knees completely stacked ontop of each other, open up clam until it’s inline with the top of your hip
Where should I feel it?
  • Deep in lower part of bottom 

Straight Knee Calf Raise (double or single) 

Note: Take those shoes off! 

Cues: 
  • Lift heel towards big toe and 2nd toe 
  • Lower controlled and slow 
Caution points: 
  • Try to make sure you don’t roll ankles in/out 
Where should I feel it?
  • Back of the lower leg 

Bent Knee Calf Raise in Wall Sit (single or double):

Cues: 
  • Squat against wall, feet hip width apart, lower to 90 degrees 
  • Lift heels towards big toe and 2nd toe 
  • Lower controlled and slow 
Where should I feel it?
  • Back of the lower leg 

Importance? 

  • Targets the main calf muscle you use in running (our soleus) 
  • Eventual goal of taking 1.6 your body weight as that’s the requirement of general running! 

Split Squat

Cues: 
  • Feet about hip width or a bit more narrow (the wider the more support for balance) 
  • Split legs slightly forward/back (the further the harder) 
  • Bent knees and fold at hips 
Caution points: 
  • Ensure up/down movement “think drop back knee down towards ground” not forward/back movement 
  • Front knee stays in line with second toe 
Where should I feel it?
  • Quads (front of thigh) and bit of bottom 

Reverse Lunge (feet are just further away, harder exercise)

Cues: 
  • Start at 90/90 knee/hip bend
  • As above 

 

Harder fun stuff (when a physio says it fun… hide) 

As you become stronger, it’s important to progress your strengthening exercises. You should aim for single leg control as this is sport specific to running and requires much more strength to do. The stronger the better. 

  • Plank Marching 
    • Try on your knees first – hover each knee off the ground alternating sides frequently 
    • Then try on your toes 
  • Elevated Bridge 
    • As above (bridging glute or hamstring) 
    • Try feet elevated on a chair 
  • Standing Hip Flexion
    • Band over arch of foot, flex hip/lift knee and hold 
  • Standing Hip Abduction
    • Band around ankle, support on opposite side to standing leg, slight bent knee and slight lean forward 
    • Raise leg to side, ensure hips/torso straight and steady 
  • Standing Hip Extension 
    • Band around ankle, support on opposite side to standing leg, slight bent knee and slight lean forward 
    • Keep ankle flexed and scooter, straighten leg backward/forward 
  • Single Leg Squat off Box/Table 
    • Stand on edge of table, bend knee and fold at hips 
    • Keep knee tracking straight  

Lucy

For an in depth assessment of your running technique book in to see Lucy

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