This Total-Body Strength Workout Will Make You a Better, Faster, and More Efficient Runner
The only way to get better at something is practice. If you want to be a better runner, you've got to do running workouts, but you also need to strength train. I'm not saying you have to become a bodybuilder, but you do need a strength foundation to prevent injury and improve your strength endurance and speed.
By incorporating one to two strength training sessions a week into your current running program, you're bound to see an improvement in your performance. If you haven't started training for your next race, I highly recommend following this four-week workout plan to build a strength foundation.
Now, it's time to switch gears and strengthen your muscles.
Before you get started with the workout, be sure to activate your glutes and your abdominal muscles (don't forget to do these drills before your runs). This workout is broken up into three different portions. You'll start with plyometric exercises that will help with reaction time to the ground, which translates to explosive power, speed, and force production. After that, you'll take two minutes of rest, then transition to the strength exercises. The rep and set scheme is for strength endurance, which you'll need to get through speed workouts, long-distance workouts, and race day. Don't forget to cool down after the workout.
- Box jump: three sets for 30 seconds
- High knees: three sets of 30 reps
- Plyo lunge: three sets of 10 reps
- Bent-over row: three sets of 12 reps
- Banded assisted pull-up: three sets of 12 reps
- Plank with knee tap: two sets of 10 reps
- Farmer's carry: two sets of 10 steps each direction
- Plank walk: two sets of 10 reps
- Step-up: three sets of 12 reps each leg
- Deadlift with knee drive: three sets of 12 reps each leg
- Dumbbell walking lunge: two sets of 10 reps
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hips-width distance apart in front of a sturdy box that's six to 24 (or more!) inches tall.
- Bend your knees, and swing your arms back.
- Jump onto the top of the box with both feet, swinging your arms forward to give you a little momentum.
- Step one foot at a time back to the floor, or jump down softly with both feet.
- This counts as one rep.
- Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds. Remember, form is more important than reps. Take 45 seconds of rest, then repeat for two more rounds.
- Run in place while lifting your knees high to the level of your waist. Engage your abs as your knee comes up.
- Pump your arms to warm up your upper body.
- Each time your foot makes contact with the ground, that counts as one repetition.
- Complete 30 high knees, then take 15 seconds of rest. Repeat for two more rounds.
- Stand with your feet together and your knees soft. Jump, and come into a lunge with your left leg forward.
- Push off with both feet, jumping them together then hopping into a lunge with your right leg in front.
- Jump your feet back together to complete one rep.
- Do 10 reps, then take 45 to 60 seconds of rest. Repeat for a total of three rounds.
Take two minutes of rest and then continue with the rest of the workout.
- Lean forward, and bend both knees, remembering to keep a flat back.
- Extend your arms so they are straight. Lift the dumbbells straight up to chest level, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do. Be sure to keep your elbows in and pointed upward. Don't arch your back.
- Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Complete three sets of 12 reps.
Banded Assisted Pull-Up
- Place a large resistance band securely around a pull-up bar. A band with more resistance will provide you with more assistance/momentum to pull yourself up.
- Stand on a stable object (a bench will work), and grip the pull-up bar. With one hand, place the band around the arch of your shoe. Fully extend the banded leg.
- With a neutral spine and your abs engaged, pull yourself up. The band will provide you with momentum to lift your body up. Lower back down to the starting position.
- This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of 12 reps.
Plank With Knee Tap
- Start resting on all fours.
- With your palms flat, raise up off your knees onto your toes. Keep your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Contract your abs to keep yourself up and prevent your bottom from sticking up. Remember to keep your belly button pulled in.
- With your head and spine in line, keep your back flat — don't let it curve. Picture your body as a long, straight board.
- With control, slowly tap your left knee to the ground without moving your hips. Lift your left knee back up, returning to the starting position. Repeat the same movement with the right leg. This completes one rep.
- Complete two sets of 10 reps.
- Start standing with a 10-pound dumbbell in each hand; if this is too heavy or too light, feel free to adjust the weight. Make sure your bodyweight is evenly distributed on each foot, your spine is in a neutral position, and your shoulders are back and open.
- With your arms extended, hold the dumbbells about four inches away from your legs; this will activate your abdominal muscles. Begin to walk forward, maintaining a neutral spine and keeping your shoulders up and open.
- Walk 10 steps forward, then turn around and walk for 10 more steps. Repeat for two rounds.
- Begin in a full plank. Lower your right elbow to the mat, then your left, coming into an elbow plank.
- Put your right hand on the mat, and straighten your right elbow. Do the same on the left to return to a full plank.
- This completes one repetition.
- Complete two sets of 10 reps.
- Find a step or a bench that, when you place your foot squarely on it, your knee is at a 90-degree angle or larger.
- Step up with the right foot, then the left, bringing both feet completely onto the bench.
- To return to the starting position, lead with the right foot to step down to the floor, then the left, until ending with both feet on the ground.
- Complete 12 reps, and repeat on the left side. Repeat for a total of three sets.
If this is too easy, you can perform this exercise with dumbbells.
Deadlift With Knee Drive
- If you're a beginner, you can do this exercise without weight. For more advanced levels, grab a set of dumbbells. Ten pounds is a good starting point.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand tall.
- Engage your core, and keep your spine neutral as you begin to hinge at your hips, pushing your hips backward. At the same time, lift your left leg off the ground. Be sure to keep your left foot dorsiflexed (don't point your toes). Continue to hinge at your hips until your back is parallel to the ground; your leg should be in line with your back. Your back should be flat, and your head/neck should be in a neutral position.
- Return to your standing position without placing your left foot on the ground. Once you're upright, drive your left knee up, creating a 90-degree angle at your knee joint. Your left foot should still be dorsiflexed. Be sure to stay tall and keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement. This counts as one rep.
- Do three sets of 12 reps on each leg.
Dumbbell Walking Lunge
- Stand upright, feet together, with 10-pound dumbbells at your side. Take a controlled step forward with your left leg, lowering your hips toward the floor by bending both knees to 90-degree angles. Your back knee should point toward but not touch the ground, and your front knee should be directly over your ankle.
- Press your left heel into the ground, and push off with your right foot to bring your right leg forward, stepping with control into a lunge on the other side. This completes one repetition.
- Complete two sets of 10 reps.