Complete Running Strength

Adding strength training for your body overall is obviously going to help you as a runner. Strength training should be done for 30-60 minutes three days a week. You can do them after your run or on days you don’t run. I recommend the latter. If you can’t go through all of them during the time you have available (this whole program is about 1.5 hours), do some one day and then the others the next. You can even break it up into three shorter sessions and just rotate through them.
You don’t necessarily need a gym membership to do these exercises because they use a few free weights, which you can get at any sports store and many general stores. Most of them are inexpensive as well. For runners using free weights, body weight, and plyometrics are going to help you the most. Machines may seem ideal because they are easy and they will help you build strength. The issue is they are stationary and running is not stationary. You are working to strengthen patterns of movement.
Here is a list of the equipment you need to complete this comprehensive strength workout: Kettle bell, swiss ball, medicine ball, resistance band (loop) and dumbbells.
Many of the exercises we’ve looked at work more than one section of the body making this easier than it looks if you’ve read all of the prior blogs. I’ve compiled the list here for easy access . Please feel free to use this and share it with others. If you can’t remember how to do them, I’ve linked the post with the instructions. I’ve put them in supersets to make it less overwhelming. I string them together so you can move between them easily. To perform a superset complete all three rounds of the exercises in the set and then move to the next superset. Complete 10-20 repetitions of each exercise in each set. If it gives you a time then, do it for that duration three times. Try to move from exercise to exercise as quickly as possible.
Superset One
Tri-cep press
Bicep curls
Fire hydrants
Donkey kicks
Eccentric calf raises (double and single leg)
Squats sumo and narrow legged
Superset Two: 
Renegade rows
Shoulder press
Planks side and front
Leg lowers (with or without medicine ball)
Kettle bell swings
Bird dogs
Back extensions
Monopoly game
Chair on toes
Toe tug
Superset Three
Twisting crunch,
Modified bicycle,
Window wipers
Box jumps
Jane Fondas,
Piston squats
Split squat,
Side squat,
Farmer’s walk on toes
I highly recommend doing the complete program. It’s going to get you a more rounded and balanced body. However, I’m a realist. If you can only do one part, focus on your core. Here are the links to the core posts, abs, hips ,  and thighs.
We all want to become faster, stronger, and more efficient runners. And even if there are a few who don’t want those things, you still want to be able to run for the rest of your life. The best way to make sure you are able to continue running is to reduce the risk of injury and one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of injury is through strength training.
We’ve been making our way down the body considering how each muscle group helps us become faster, stronger and more efficient runners through strength training and as we’ve looked at each section something that has become a theme is injury prevention. Injury prevention is something all runners can get behind regardless of your distance or where you fall in the pack.
We’re all going to get slower as we age and it becomes more difficult to build muscle mass, not that we want a lot of mass as runners, but an area where we can continue to get better and balance out what we lose in strength is efficiency.

Thigh Strength and Running

 If you’ve been following this series of posts about why strength training is important to runners and how to do it, you know that strengthening your core muscles is really important. And if you have to choose one area, because of your limited time or whatever, chose your core muscle group, especially your hips.
Given that, my ultimate recommendation is to strengthen your entire body with running specific exercises. Using stationary machines may get you stronger, but they are not the most beneficial for runners. Using body weight and light weights while moving really focuses on all the muscles you use to run. Running, after all, is not a stationary movement. These exercises are not meant to increase the size of your muscles. You don’t have to be big to be strong. Size only adds weight and slows you down.
What do your thighs do when you run and why is it important to make sure they are strong? Your thighs (and hamstrings) get you up and down hills. They also make sure your knee cap tracks as it should. A knee that does not track properly is painful and can put a complete stop to your running. I’m going to touch on your hamstrings a little here as well because your thighs, aka quadriceps, and hamstrings work together to move your leg forward and back. Many runners have weak hamstrings. An imbalance between hamstrings and quads can lead to over use injuries, muscle strains, and tendon inflammation. All bad. As you strengthen your quads, make sure you are also strengthening your hamstrings.
Quadriceps push you up hills and take most of the impact when you run down hill stabilizing you with each foot step. Your hamstrings and glutes should be working in conjunction with your quads to push you up the hill and stabilize on the down hills. If you have weak hamstrings and glutes, make sure you are focusing on them while you climb and descend, think engage the glutes and feel them flex and push. This is called proprioception or knowing where and what your body is doing. If you read the last post on hips, you can alternate between your hip awareness and your hamstring/glute awareness. For exercises that strengthen your hamstrings see Tuesdays post here.
When runners come to me with sore knees and shins after a long run or race, I always ask how much down hill there was. People think that downhill running is easier than uphill and it is mentally and aerobically easier for most. The issue is the impact to your quads. If you don’t train your quads to absorb that impact, you’re going to hurt, and you’re going to end up injured.
Your quads consist of four major muscles on the front of the leg, one pretty much straight down the front, one that attaches to the inside of your knee, one that attaches to the outside of your knee, and the last one hides underneath the first one is said. Do the following exercises three to four days a week. Complete three sets of 10-20 repetitions. You don’t need a lot of weight because we are not trying to get bigger.
  1. Split leg squat.
  2. Narrow leg squat.
  3. Chair.
  4. Kettle bell squat.
  5. Side squat
How to:
  1. Spit leg squat. From a standing position step forward and lower down until your knees are at ninety degree angles (both front and back so make sure your stance is not too wide or narrow). Hold at the bottom for 2-3 seconds. Come back up and repeat. Don’t alternate. Just stay in that position until the set is finished. Keep your knees straight forward.
  2. Narrow leg squat. From a standing position, place your feet about six inches apart (you can put your hands into fists side by side to measure). Raise your arms straight out and lower down as far as you can. Keep your knees straight forward and behind your toes.
  3. Chair: Same position as the narrow leg squat. The difference is hold at the bottom for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Kettle bell squat. From a standing position, step out so your feet are about the length of your leg apart. Turn your feet out a bit, forty-five degrees-ish.  Hold a kettle bell below your chin and squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your back neutral not bending forward over your legs.To add some arms to this you can lower the kettle bell as you stand and raise it as you squat down.
  5. Side squat. From a standing position. Step out with one leg and two to three feet. Squat down with the one leg keeping the other straight. Repeat on the other side. You can add a kettle bell to this one too.
Balanced strength in all four quads will prevent improper tracking of your knee cap. An important concept to come way with, for this whole series really, is that our muscles don’t work alone and we need to keep them balanced.