Strength training is so important for runners, and yet, most of us tend to forget about it and focus on what we like to do… which is running. The stronger you are, the faster you’ll run, and the better you will get at uphill/downhill, trail and mountain running. It also helps preventing injuries by getting all of your body muscles stronger, and not just those legs! We have selected for you some of our go to exercises for trail runners and included video links to videos which explain how to do each one.
1. The plank
This exercise is great for your abs, as well as your shoulders. It is very important as a runner to work on your upper body and core as well, because it will help you get more stability and thus avoid too many side-to-side movements.
You can do some variations of this exercise: on your hands instead of elbows, side plank, you can add some resistance… We could go on for ever!
2. The glute (or hip) bridge
With this movement, you need to lie on your back, feet hip-width apart and knees bent, and drive your hips up toward the sky. Hold the position for a few seconds (engaging those glutes!), return to the start position and repeat. This is a great exercise for your glutes and hamstrings.
For those of you with more experience, variations of this exercise can include some weights or a resistance band.
3. The single leg deadlifts
This one is great to work on your legs, hamstrings and glutes as well as your stability on your ankles, which are essential for trail running! For this movement, you need to stand on one leg, with your other leg raised slightly off the ground and knee slightly bent. Extend your lifted leg behind you, making sure you keep your back straight hinge forward until your leg and torso are in line. Repeat a few times and then do the same thing on the other leg.
If you feel comfortable, you can hold some weights or dumbbells to add resistance.
4. Calf raises
I don’t know about you, but this one is one of my least favourites… You will need to find a step and something to hold on to for balance. Stand at the edge of the step, slightly hold on to something if needed, and drop your feet towards the ground as much as you can. Then, go up on your tip toes and repeat.
Do these exercises slowly to work harder on you calves. They can be done as double or single leg raises also.
5. Single leg set ups
This exercise is great to get those legs stronger! Stand in front of a bench or a box that is at knee-height (strong enough to hold your weight) and put one foot on it, step up in a straight position with you lifted knee at 90°, and come back down. Repeat the same number of ties on each leg. Make sure to hold your shoulders and hips straight, because they tend to drop on the non-lifted side of your body. Use your opposite arm as well to form an A-frame shape.
For more resistance, you can use some weights as well.
6. Bonus: squats!
Did you really think we forgot about those? Squats are great to work on your legs and glutes. And the great thing about them is that there are so many variations focusing on different muscles and depending on your level as well! You can use some weights or resistance band, you can do jump squats, Bulgarian split squats, sumo squats, goblet squats… There are so many of them, it never ends!
We suggest incorporating a strength training session 2-3 times per week into your training schedule. You will see the benefits. There are lots of strength workouts for runners available online that you can follow along to.
The number of reps and sets of each exercise will depend on your current ability and strength. However remember quality over quantity. Doing exercises slowly, with the correct form is key to their effectiveness and avoiding injury.
We hope we’ve convinced you about the importance of incorporating some strength exercises into your running training plan!