“Run more, run faster” seems to be the mantra of many ambitious runners. And while it is true that the majority of your training should consist of running, the benefits of resistance training with your own body weight are often underestimated. Read about how bodyweight training improves your running performance and which exercises you can do to enhance your running.
BENEFIT 1: YOU RUN MORE EFFICIENTLY
A stable torso is crucial for efficient running form. Abs and back muscles (core) play a major role. If these are too weak, your body will be forced to compensate. A strong upper body guarantees a smooth transfer of the force generated from your arms to your legs. Efficient running form helps you run faster and expend less energy.
EXERCISE 1: LOW PLANK
This full-body exercise is a great way to strengthen your abs and back muscles. By tensing your entire body, you engage all your muscles and improve your posture. Try doing low planks for 20 seconds and increase the duration as you get stronger.
When you’re ready for more: If you want more of a challenge, lift your legs, alternating between right and left. Try to keep your hips straight and level.
BENEFIT 2: YOU BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE
Bodyweight training exercises are usually complex and strengthen more than just your muscles. If done properly, they also strengthen your mobility and agility. In general, flexibility is always a combination of strengthening, mobilization and stretching.
EXERCISE 2: LUNGE TO HIGH KNEE
The starting position is a reverse lunge. When you stand up again, pull your knee up toward your chin. Balance on your other leg. Repeat this combination of moves 8 to 12 times and then switch sides. This exercise improves your balance and flexibility. Your back should not be arched or hunched.
BENEFIT 3: YOU REDUCE STRESS ON YOUR SPINE
Back pain is a common problem among runners. The main reason is weak abs and back muscles. Every time you run, your spine is subjected to small impacts. These cause your intervertebral discs to lose fluid and shrink, thus reducing their ability to absorb the shock from running. When we sleep, this fluid is replenished and the discs return to their original size. The stronger your core is, the longer your spine can benefit from its stabilizing effect.
EXERCISE 3: BRIDGE
In this exercise, you lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor, positioned one hand’s length from your glutes. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and back form a straight line. Lower them again. Repeat this 8 to 12 times. Keep your legs and glutes tightened throughout the exercise.
Tighten your muscles: When you ease back down, try not to let your butt touch the floor. Stop just before you get there. This way your muscles will stay engaged and you will get more out of the exercise.
BENEFIT 4: YOU LOWER YOUR RISK OF INJURY
Many runners’ problems (runner’s knee, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, etc.) are the result of muscle imbalances. These are often caused by focusing on only one activity or improper technique. To compensate for these imbalances, you should make strengthening and stabilization exercises a regular part of your running training. These can help improve your running form and thus lower the risk of injury.
EXERCISE 4: SINGLE LEG REACH TO SHIN
This exercise builds core stability and improves your balance. All the leg muscles are trained here, which is great for reducing hip and knee problems. Keep your upper body straight with a neutral spine and your leg stretched as you bend forward, hinging at the hip.
Proper form: Make sure you start in a stable position, with your back straight — not arched! Your hips should be level, too. Your weight should be in your heel and your leg as straight as possible. If you can’t fully stretch your leg, you can bend your knee slightly.