Pumping iron shouldn’t replace a running workout, says Laguna Niguel-based track and field coach Ryan Belsito, owner of Belsito Strength & Conditioning, but it can benefit your training program. “Strength training is especially helpful in preventing overuse injuries, like plantar, calf and ankle strains, and back pain,” Belsito says. “Your muscles can help support your joints and keep you running with optimal form.”
The thing is, since much of your training should involve running, you’ll want to make your gym workouts extra efficient, performing movements that especially benefit your stride and form. Belsito suggests completing two full-body strength workouts each week. “If you train your whole body in one session, you’re less liable to overdo it with one specific muscle group, making it less likely you’ll be too sore for your next run,” Belsito says.
Incorporate the following exercises into your workouts to strengthen your entire body — and your stride.
“These are single-leg movements like running, and move your hips, knees and ankles through their full range of motion, helping to correct muscle imbalances,” Belsito says. “Even the foot gets a full stretch and load.”
Hold a light-to-moderate weight dumbbell in each hand and, keeping your chest up, step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until your right knee is bent to 90 degrees. Press back up, and step forward with the left leg, lowering until your left knee is bent to 90 degrees. Repeat for two sets of 8–12 lunges with each leg.
“Many runners lack low-back and core strength — which this classic move helps build,” says Belsito.
Grab a barbell, body bar or set of dumbbells at a moderately challenging weight. (Your last two reps should feel tough.) Stand with your feet just wider than hip distance and bend your knees. Bend at the hips, and lower the weight toward the floor keeping your back flat. Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes to lift yourself back to the starting position. Perform two sets of 8–12 reps.
“These are excellent for improving posture,” Belsito says. “Many runners don’t have the best posture, and these help set the shoulders in a better position.”
Grab a bar or dumbbells (with the bar being the first choice), and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance. Bend your knees and fold forward at the hips, so your torso is parallel to the floor. Bring the weight up to your ribs and lower for two sets of 8–12 reps.
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SIDE-PLANK LEG LIFTS
“These work the lateral sides of the body and are good for strengthening hips to help prevent injuries,” says Belsito.
Get into a high plank with your hands beneath your shoulders, and abs pulled in toward your spine. Shift your left hand slightly beneath your chest, and pivot onto the side of your left foot, stacking your feet and opening your chest and right arm toward the ceiling. Lift your right leg up slightly, keeping it straight. Hold for 10 seconds, lower your leg, return your right hand to the floor and repeat for three holds before performing on the other side.
HANGING LEG RAISES
“These not only provide spinal decompression with the hang, but you use your core in a way that will help strengthen the muscles needed to pick your legs up higher, and grow your stride,” Belsito says.
To do them, hang from a bar, and in a controlled movement, lift your straight legs up to 90 degrees, until they are straight out in front of you. Lower to start and repeat, avoiding swinging. If you don’t have access to a bar, modify with boat pose. Aim for three sets of 10 reps — or however many you can complete.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN