Tag Archives: strength for runners

Running 101: Cross vs Strength Training

Often used interchangeably, cross training and strength training are something all runners should have in their training plan.  They are, however, not the same activities.  Cross training is any activity that increases or maintains your fitness while giving you a break from your most trained modality.  That means biking or kayaking if you’re a runner and swimming or rowing if strength trainingyou’re a cyclist.  It also means strength training.  Strength training is a type of cross training that makes your muscles stronger, not just give your body a variety of stimuli.

Cross training makes us better athletes.  It gives our bodies different stresses to respond to and leads to more flexibility with improved coordination.  It helps prevent injury, aids recovery and staves off boredom.  Having options other than running is also a must for when the weather gets ugly.  Too hot, too icy, too windy or too dangerous, you don’t need to miss a workout if you have a solid cross training option ready to go.

Strength training, on the other hand, is meant to make us stronger.  Building muscle mass isn’t strength trainingour goal as runners but being tougher is.  A weak core means poor posture and less speed.  Stronger legs generate more power and last longer in a race.  Unilateral strength exercises eliminate muscle imbalances and improve balance.

Runners should focus on exercises and activities that will strengthen running specific muscles while being sure not to neglect your incredibly important upper body.  Improve power with box jumps and jump rope.  Maintain good posture with push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep your core strong with planks and sit-ups.  Stay even with lunges and step-ups.

Any quality training plan will include both cross training and specific strength training.  They are key elements in building a quality athlete who is injury resistant and ready to compete successfully.

Coach Meredith

Upper Body Strength for Runners

All runners know they need strong, stable legs and hips to get the most out of each run.  Equally as important, and often overlooked, is upper body strength.  Being powerful above the hips as well as below will help you run faster and perform better during every workout.  Your arms move in precise coordination with your legs to help maintain rhythm while your shoulders work to maintain good posture that allows your lungs and diaphragm to do they best job they can.  A strong core stabilizes against rotation that wastes energy and helps propel you forward.

So how do you build upper body strength?  There are tons of exercises you can use.  Focusing on muscle groups that improve and maintain posture is the best path to building strength that will make you a better runner.  That means your back, chest, shoulders and, most importantly, core.  While you don’t want to end up carrying extra muscle weight by bulking up, you do want strong, stable muscles that will hold you up when the going gets tough.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite upper body moves:

Push-Ups:  Push-ups stabilize shoulder, strengthen arms and work those important core muscles.  Performing them correctly, with your elbows tight to your ribs and externally rotated shoulders, will improve running form and efficiency.

upper body strengthPlank Rows:  These toughies challenge your entire upper body.  Your shoulders and core work to stabilize your position while your back works to lift that weight.

Pull-Ups:  Adjustable for everyone, this challenging exercise is a great way to get a stronger, more stable upper body.  From strict pull-ups to ring rows, the wide variety of scaling options means there’s no excuse not to try.upper body strength

Overhead Press:  Yes, any overhead press will do.  Whether it’s a strict press, thruster, push-press or clean and jerk, lifting weights over your head takes skill and strength.  Your core stabilizes your entire body while shoulders work to push the weight up.

Use these four moves to help build upper body strength.  You’ll earn better running form and faster race times.

Coach Meredith

Unilateral Movement for Runners

Unilateral movement can sound intimidating.  Thankfully, however, the movements themselves aren’t.  Any runner can and will benefit from practicing using one side of their body at a time.  When we use both legs to complete a squat or jump, the stronger side often takes over while the weaker side stays that way.  This can be a recipe for a funky gait, less running power, muscle imbalances and even injuries.  Unilateral training works to make weak sides stronger, increase muscle recruitment, eliminate muscle imbalances and strengthen the core as a bonus.

Team ECRP loves unilateral movement and here are three of our favorites.  Each one will help you get stronger and run with better form.  These movements work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, ankles, feet and abs all on their own.  If you’re looking to hit your upper body too, safely add carried or overhead weights.unilateral movement

Lunges.  Take a giant step forward with one leg then drop your back knee down towards the ground.  Be sure to keep the front knee behind to your toe, aiming for a 90 degree angle.  Once that back knee hits the ground, push back up to standing position and bring your feet back together.  Repeat on both sides.

Step-upsUsing a box, chair or table that’s strong enough to hold you and a comfortable height, place one foot fully onto the flat raised surface.  Use your front leg to lift your body upunilateral movement, bringing your back foot onto the box as well.

Single Leg Deadlifts.  Single leg deadlifts require lots of balance and hamstring mobility.  Start by standing feet together then raise one leg straight behind you while your shoulder come forward as a counter balance.  Keep your working leg steady but don’t lock out your knee as you keep your non-working hip open and back flat.  Touch the ground then slowly return to the starting position.

Include these unilateral movements in your training plan for stronger, better balanced running.

Coach Meredith