A simple weight-training programme to help runners (like this RW staffer) build power and speed. – By Katie Neitz
Runner’s World US Art Director Erin Benner wants to get fast. She’s putting in the legwork – churning out 200-, 400-, 800-metre repeats – every week in an effort to run a personal best mile (1 600m) and 5-K (she’d like to break 5.45 and 20.00, respectively) this spring. She’s foam-rolling her legs, icing her injury-prone feet, and pool-running and spinning. But something critical is missing from her regimen: strength training.
“I think a lot of runners feel intimidated or put off by weight lifting because it’s foreign to them, or they think it will make them bulky – and slow,” says Jen Ator, fitness director of Women’s Health US (also published by RW’s parent company, Rodale). “But lifting can be a key component to building speed. The more power you can generate with each stride, the faster you can run. The stronger you are, the longer you can generate that power without fatiguing, meaning you’ll be able to maintain that pace.”
Ator came up with a plan that’s short, sweet – and most importantly, specific. Ator (herself an avid runner and triathlete) designed it to address common strength imbalances: building core strength, increasing glute activation, and improving posture and overall mobility.
This 15-minute body-weight workout can be done any day of the week. Ator recommends doing it following a run as a cooldown; it will help increase your range of motion and prevent muscle stiffness. In a pinch (say, you’re travelling and can’t make it to the gym), you can do this workout a second time that week instead of doing Workout 2.
Step back with your left foot, and lower your body into a lunge. At the same time, rotate your upper body to your right. Rotate back to the front, then return to standing. Do 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
Get in a push-up position. Slowly lower down to the floor, keeping your body in a straight line from heels to head. As your chest comes close to the ground, drop your knees and push up from the down position. Do 15 reps.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, palms down. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Contract your glutes and hold for two seconds, then return to start. Do 15 reps.
Start in a push-up position. Bring your left knee toward your right elbow. Then, sweep your knee across your body to the outside of your left elbow. Return to start, then repeat with your right knee. That’s 1 rep. Alternate for 15 reps.
Lie face-down, arms out. Lift your left leg, bend that knee, and reach that leg back across your body. Touch your foot to the floor. Hold for two seconds, then return to start. Repeat on the right. Alternate for 15 reps on each side.
This 20-minute workout requires a pair of dumbbells and an exercise bench. When choosing dumbbells, keep this in mind: Research shows that lifting a weight that you find challenging and taxing for fewer repetitions is best for developing strength and power. This means your muscles may feel sore the next day, especially if you are new to lifting. When scheduling your workouts, think of this routine in the same way you would a tough hill or track workout; you should avoid doing this workout the day before or after a long run or on a rest day. The first time you do Workout 2, use lighter weights so you can focus on using proper form. Once you are comfortable with the moves, increase the weight so that you find it difficult to eke out the last few reps. “That’s really crucial when it comes to building the type of power that’s going to make you a stronger, faster runner,” Ator says.
With a dumbbell resting in the crease of your hips, sit on the floor with the bottom of your shoulder blades touching a bench. Drive through your heels and thrust your hips up toward the ceiling while contracting your glutes. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat 8 to 10 times for 3 sets.
Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and place your right palm on a bench. Extend your torso and legs back so that you are in an elevated plank position. Brace your core and contract your glutes while rowing your left elbow back. Lower and repeat, doing 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
Begin in a half-kneeling position, with a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder level. Both hips and knees should form a 90-degree angle. While maintaining a tall posture, press the dumbbell overhead. Bring the weight back down in a slow, controlled movement. Do 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended down in front of your thighs. Hinge forward at your hips while lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor and while extending your left leg back behind you. Pause, then return to standing. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps on each leg.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest, elbows pointing toward the floor. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat, your elbows brushing the insides of your knees. Push yourself back to start. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.