Strength Training For Runners

Zach Bitter

Strength training plays a valuable role in my training and racing program. I use it differently throughout the year and for different purposes. During base training and/or down time from running, I will prioritize strength work.

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"After a long season of races when I scale back my running a bit, some strength workouts even become the primary workout of the day for me."

 

Often times, runners fear the weight room or shy away from anything but high-repetition/low-weight body movements as they don’t want to “get bulky” by putting on unnecessary amounts of muscle weight. This is mostly a myth. It is quite difficult for a runner who is focusing on running and racing as a primary goal to put on lots of extra muscle weight. This doesn’t mean high repetition body weight exercises are bad, it just shouldn’t be at the expense of some heavier lifting at the right time of year.

I do many different strength exercises throughout the course of the year, but when planning out my season and build-up for an A race, these are the three strength training tools I value the most:

Romanian Deadlift:

As runners, we can often neglect our posterior chain (the muscles on your backside—primarily your lower back, gluteus maximus (glutes), hamstrings, and calves). These muscles are crucial and often underdeveloped in runners, causing imbalances, injuries, and declining form as the race wears on. I utilize the RDLs for heavy lifting of the posterior chain. I strongly believe this has especially helped my hamstrings and glutes stay strong and not tighten up as much when the race begins to take its toll. Like with all weight lifting, proper technique should be learned before adding weight to the exercise. Here is an image of the technique.

Planks:

Planks are a great way to strengthen your entire core, rather than simply focusing on just your abdominal cage. Planks address the entire core, which is pivotal in creating a strong system of support for your running. This support can be crucial in remaining injury free and avoiding the imbalances that so often plague runners and lead to injuries. There is a huge variety of planks and levels of difficulty that can be applied. Here is an image of some common plank variations I use.

Pushup with Dumbbell Pull:

When strength training, people often make the mistake of focusing too much on pushing exercises and forgetting to do pulling exercises. The best part about this exercise is that it addresses pulling, pushing, and core all in one exercise. The pushing and pulling movements address upper body strength that is often neglected by distance runners, but is crucial to overall strength. Here is an image of

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