In this post, we’ll look at:
- Why you should do strength training and what benefits you can expect
- And how you can do strength training at home without any expensive equipment
If you are just starting to run, gaining strength is as important as running. And for the experienced runners, it can be the edge they need to move up to the next level.
Including supplementary training like strength training and plyometrics can produce amazing results.
While there are several ways of performing it, this article focuses on how runners can do strength training at home.
So let’s get started!
Why do strength training?
You might be thinking, why do strength training at all? Isn’t it better to use the time to run more instead?
Doesn’t the principle of Specificity state that we should focus on the training that is specific to our sport?
Well, there is more to it.
In simple words, if an activity helps you do more running, The time spent on such activity (or activities) is time well spent.
To understand this better, let’s take a look at the following benefits of strength training for runners:
- Resistance to Injury
- Strong muscles
- Maintaining fitness level during a break from running
- Improvements in performance
Let’s expand a little on these benefits:
Resistance to Injuries
The best advantage that strength training can produce for a runner is – resistance to injuries.
Strength training helps runners avoid injuries by fixing muscular imbalances.
By doing only one type of training (in our case running), you will regularly work on certain muscle groups while ignoring others.
This results in a muscular imbalance in our body. When this happens, stronger muscles have to compensate for the weaker muscles which leads to an injury.
This is what strength training is incredibly good for.
Just a few sessions each week will make you a stronger and well-balanced athlete.
When you feel fatigued in the later stages of a workout or a race, it’s not just because your legs are tired. It happens because your shoulders, your arms, your back – everything is tired.
By doing strength training you make them stronger, which needless to say, is extremely helpful in those final moments.
Strong muscles, especially the core, serves runners big time.
Maintaining fitness level during a break from running
You may have to take a break from running for a while. This could be due to an injury. Or during your off-season.
According to the principle of reversibility, you’ll lose the benefits that you gained with the training you did.
But you can continue strength training. It will help you keep your basic fitness level.
Improvements in performance
As noted above, strength training will help you stay injury-free. And staying injury-free will allow you to train more; which is the most important factor for performance improvement.
In addition to that, strength training will help you:
- lose excess fat, giving you a leaner frame.
- Improve running economy. Meaning, you spend less energy doing the same workout.
- Maintain good and more efficient running form which is one of the key factors of improving performance.
These advantages will allow you to run better and lead to remarkable improvements.
So you get the idea of what strength training can do for you. Right?
Ready to make strength training a part of your training?
Let’s move on!
What strength training should runners do?
You can perform strength training in the following ways:
- By lifting weights at a gym
- By buying simple equipment like dumbbells, medicine ball, resistance band etc. and workout at home
- By doing bodyweight exercises
Or even a mix of all three!
Well, this article focuses on the third option – bodyweight exercises.
Bodyweight exercises produce results similar to weight training. Plus, they give you better control over your body. These exercises are widely accepted and proven for strength building.
And the best part is – they are simple to do. And they can be done anywhere.
How often should you do strength training?
As you would be doing a lot of running already. You may find it hard to allocate some time to perform strength training.
The good news is, you don’t need to do it every single day.
Performing strength training 2-3 times a week is enough for runners.
When should runners do strength training?
You should do strength training on your hard days. A good time to perform is either shortly after your running workout or later in the same day.
So for example, if you complete your quality run (e.g. tempo run or interval training) in the morning, you can perform strength workout after a few hours. If you are not too tired. Or do it in the evening. Find out what works for you best.
Doing so will not interfere with your recovery. Your easy days will be easy.
Remember, just like running, Strength training puts stress on your body. And you should give your body time to recover in order to gain the maximum benefits. Additionally, running the next day with a tired body can get you in trouble.
Will strength training make me bulk up?
Isn’t strength training all about developing big muscles, which is not beneficial for a runner?
When we talk about strength training (going to the gym specifically), the images of those bulked up dudes may come into your mind.
But don’t worry.
To bulk up, you’ll have to eat a lot (especially protein) and avoid endurance training. Bodybuilders are not recommended to run long distances. Instead, they are advised to do short sprints to lose excess fat from their bodies.
As a distance runner, most of your energy will be used on those long runs. Strength training will only help you get stronger and maintain muscle mass.
So your chances of getting bulked up are extremely low.
Strength training for runners at home
There are tons and tons of bodyweight exercises to choose from. The number can easily overwhelm beginners.
On the positive side, you can add new exercises to your routine to make it interesting. But that’s for later when you get more experienced.
Start with the basic exercises first. Master them. And then move on to the more advanced ones.
Below is the list of basic exercises that you should start with.
Note: All the exercises suggested here are done without any special equipment except for pull-ups. All you’ll need is a pull-up bar for that.
Grab the pull-up bar with your hands placed about shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. And then lower yourself slowly to the starting position. Try to keep your body as straight as possible.
Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps. You can start with only 2-3 reps and increase them as you get stronger.
Tip: There are a lot of people who cannot do a single pullup. let’s face it, they are hard and need quite a lot of strength to perform. If you cannot do pull-ups yet, start with Negative Pull-ups.
Check out the full pull-up progression to see other variations of it.
Place your hands on the floor, about shoulder-width apart. Keep your feet together. Your head should also be straight, your nose pointing straight ahead. Make a straight line from your head to your heels.
Your elbows should make about a 45-degree angle from your torso.
That’s your starting position.
Now, lower your body down slowly until your chest comes close to the ground. Make sure the movement is slow.
Now, raise yourself up using your arms with little explosiveness.
Make sure you maintain a straight body throughout the whole movement. Don’t raise your hips too high from that line. Or don’t let them drop making an arch in your lower back. Think straight.
Tip: Go down slowly and come up explosively. You should do this for all the exercises. When you go with the gravity, slow down. And when you go against gravity, go with slight explosiveness.
Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down pushing your knees out and your butt back. Imagine you’re sitting on a chair. Keep your spine neutral and chest out. And look straight ahead.
Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps.
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips.
Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about 90-degree angle. The back knee should almost touch the ground. Keep your back straight.
Push off the front leg to come back to starting position.
Perform 8-12 reps with each leg.
Start on all fours. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. This will be exactly like the starting position of a push-up.
Engage abdominal muscles. And hold the pose for one minute.
In the beginning, you may find it hard to perform a plank for a full minute. You’ll have to build it up slowly. Start with a 15-20 sec plank. Eventually, you’ll get stronger and then you can hold it for longer.
Tip: You can start with your forearms on the ground, and when it gets easier, place your hands on the ground.
Lie on your side, resting on one of your hands. Raise your hips so your body makes a straight line from head to heels.
Hold the pose for one minute. Then repeat on the other side.
Sit on the floor with your feet extended in front of you. Place your hands slightly outside of your hip-width. Lift your hips up so your body makes a straight line from head to heels.
Perform the reverse plank for one minute.
Things to Consider
Follow a well-designed workout
You should follow a well-designed strength routine. Don’t just do exercises randomly. A well-designed routine will work on all the major muscle groups in your body.
A good example is The Start Bodyweight Basic Routine.
It’s a well balanced full-body workout. All you’ll need is a pull-up bar. Or somewhere you can perform pull-ups, like a tree branch, edge of the roof or anywhere else.
Also, there are plenty of pictures on the website to help you out.
Click on the exercise name in the table to see the progression for each exercise.
This routine is recommended to be performed three times a week. You should take at least one rest day between each session.
And rest between 1 and 2 minutes between sets.
Just like running, you should take a recovery week after every third or fourth week. You simply cut back your training a little in a recovery week.
You can either reduce the number of reps or perform easier versions of the exercises you are currently doing.
Do it right
Remember, Performing these exercises with correct form is more important than how many reps you do.
Tip: Record a video of yourself while performing an exercise. This way, you can see if there are any mistakes you’re making. And work on to correct them.
If you find an exercise too hard, start with an easier version of it. And as you get comfortable with it, move on to harder variations of the same exercise. This is called progression.
For example, if you cannot do push-ups yet, you should start with incline pushups.
Once you can do the recommended reps and sets of them, move to standard push-up. And then to diamond push-up, pseudo planche push-up or one-armed push-up. So on and so forth.
Another way for progression is to add weights. For example, you can hold a dumbbell between your legs while performing pullups. Or perform push-ups with a weighted vest. This will make them more challenging.
So we’ve learned about how strength training can help runners perform better. And all the benefits can be gained working out at home with cool bodyweight exercises. No need to go to expensive gyms and spend a fortune.
Now, it’s all up to you. How consistent you’ll be is what will make the difference.
Do you already do strength training? What kind?
Or do you feel there is something important that I missed?
Do share in the comments below.