When training for a marathon, many people forget about the role strength plays in your performance and in staying injury free. This is why having a strength training plan is so important for marathoners, just like having a running plan is.
When training for a marathon, you should be running, doing strength training, and cross-training. These workouts will help to minimize injury risk while ensuring your body is strong and healthy. However, marathon training is extensive, after all, most marathoners will run six days a week throughout their training. Thus, adding in strength or cross-training can seem impossible. However, no matter how busy you are, you should be incorporating strength training at least twice a week. It is recommended to add this to the days when you have shorter runs and make sure that you still have at least one rest day each week.
When it comes to strength training, there are so many options, so which exercises are best for runners? Below are the top exercises you should be doing to improve your performance as a marathoner and reduce injury risk. Better yet, all of these exercises can be done using your body weight, or with weights as you gain strength.
Squats target the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abductors, calves, core and hip flexors. These are all muscles that your body uses while running, thus making this a crucial strength training exercise. Remember to keep your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, and head up throughout the movement. Start with 4 sets of 12 repetitions without weights, then, as this gets easier add a dumbbell or kettlebell weight.
Note: If you have a previous injury and one leg is weaker than the other, consider adding extra sets of unilateral or one-legged squats to build strength in that leg.
Lunges target the glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstring, and core. They can also be used to improve balance and correct muscle imbalances from previous injuries. Remember to stand tall throughout the workout and bend both knees to 90 degrees for each lunge. Start with 3 sets of 12 repetitions without weights, then, as this gets easier add in weighted leg bands or dumbbells.
Hip thrusters help to increase hip flexibility while building core, glute, and quadriceps strength. To complete this exercise you will need a box, bench, or exercise ball that is knee height. Complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Calf raises are important to build calve strength and endurance as well as improve ankle stability. Simply use a step or box to complete the exercise. Start with 3 sets of 15 repetitions without weights, then as this gets easier consider adding weighted leg bands.
While push-ups may seem unnecessary for runners, but, having good upper body and core strength helps to improve posture. The better your posture and form, the better you can run. Start with 3 sets of 6 repetitions and increase this to 3 sets of 12 repetitions as you build strength.
The plank is an important exercise to work the whole body and much like push-ups, helps to improve your form. Start with two 30-second planks per workout, and slowly increase these to 60 seconds as they get easier.
Adding a strength training plan is crucial for marathoners looking to beat their personal bests and reduce the risk of injury. After all, the stronger your muscles are, the more strain they can take.