Strength training is one of the easiest ways to improve as a runner while also preventing injury. It’s also one of the most overlooked aspects of a runner’s weekly schedule. Jennifer Rochon and Kevin Yeboah are UA trainers (based in Montreal and Toronto, respectively) who recommend their clients do strength training at least twice a week, for 20 to 30 minutes per session.
Both trainers say that this small time investment goes a long way towards improving results while minimizing the risk of injury. “I’ve only ever recommended two or three times a week,” says Yeboah. “Ideally, runners strength train every other day, after their runs. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. The key is finding something that works with your schedule and is sustainable.” Rochon echoes this statement and reminds runners that strength training is all about consistency. “You need to be consistent so you have to find a routine that works well for you,” she says. “This is the only way to see results.”
As gyms are currently closed and many Canadians are expressing concerns about returning once they reopen, both UA trainers put together a greatest-hits strength workout for runners that they can easily do at home in under 30 minutes (and with minimal equipment).
Rochon points out that runners tend to have structural inefficiencies that lead to overuse injuries, and strength training is one of the most effective ways to correct the imperfections and inefficiencies in your running form. “Many running injuries are due to structural issues which over time have taken a toll on your joints, and strength training is one of the best preventative measures,” she says.
When doing the exercises below, be sure to watch the videos closely and follow the instructions. It’s all about form, so start weightless and add weight as you become comfortable with the movements.
Top 10 exercises to improve your running form
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions (dumbbell weight range 10-25 lbs)
Exercise description: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward, grab your dumbbell and hold it with both hands in front of your body, against your chest. Begin the squat by pushing your hips back and driving your weight into your heels as you lower into the squat. When your knees reach 90 degrees, push up through the heels and return back to a standing position, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions (dumbbell weight range 10-25 lbs)
Exercise description: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Pickup your dumbbell and hold it by the ends with both your hands and allow your arms to hang relaxed in front of your body. Hinging at the hips, bend forward by pushing your hips back and keeping your legs as straight as possible while keeping the dumbbell close to your body. Maintain a flat back and neutral spine at all times. Once you’ve pushed your hips as far back as you can (allow a slight bend at the knee at the bottom of the movement) return to the starting position and squeeze the glutes at the top to complete the rep.
Forward lunges with dumbbell
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions per leg (dumbbell weight range 10-25 lbs)
Exercise description: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Pick up your dumbbell and hold it with both hands in front of your body, against your chest. Step forward with one leg into the forward lunge position, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Push off the front leg and return to the standing position to complete the rep. Repeat on the other leg.
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions
Exercise description: Stand facing your box with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward. Bend your knees and drop into a squat, while bringing your arms back, ready to swing. Swing your arms and jump off the ground, landing on the box with both feet in a squat position, extending your legs at the top. Step or jump down to complete the rep.
Bulgarian split squat
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions per leg
Exercise description: Start facing away from the box with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward. Place one of your feet on top of the box behind you. Drop into the split squat by bending both legs and dropping the back knee to the ground. Simultaneously raise the opposite arm, as if you were running. Explode up by pushing through the front leg and bring the back leg off the box and the back knee up at the top. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Seated arm running
Instructions: 3-4 sets of 30 seconds
Exercise description: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and your posture upright. With your arms each bent at 90 degrees, swing them from cheek to cheek, mimicking your run form. Keep your arms close to your body and maintain a tight core and upright stance in your upper body the entire time. Play with the pace to increase the intensity as you continue through the exercise.
Single leg touchdown
Instructions: 4 sets of 6-10 repetitions (dumbbells optional)
Exercise description: Start by standing on a platform or bench that’s about 12 inches tall, with dumbbells in each hand. Load your weight onto your right foot, making sure your toes are pointing straight forward. Extend the left leg back as you simultaneously bend at the hips and right knee to lower your left heel towards the ground. Your weight should remain solely on your right foot, dumbbells in hands, arms extended. As your left heel comes close to the ground or lightly touches, press through your right foot and drive your left knee to a balancing position. Keep an eye on your alignment as you go through your reps – your knee should always track over your second or third toe. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the other side.
Plank runner’s lunge to t-rotations
Instructions: 4 sets of 10 repetitions
Exercise description: Start in a high plank position, hands underneath your shoulder blades, grasping your dumbbells (which are on the ground). Your body should create a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Drive your right knee forward and place your right foot (heel down) close to your upper body. Grip the dumbbell with your right hand to lift it up vertically, rotate your torso to the side until your arm is fully extended. Slowly reverse the movement to your starting position and repeat on the other side. Complete the prescribed numbers of reps, alternating from side to side. (Pro tip: keep the weight close to your body as it travels up and down.)
Instructions: 4 sets of 10 repetitions per side
Exercise description: Step in the middle of your dyno disk or pillow with your right foot, while holding a wall for balance, keeping your left toes pointed behind you. Begin the calf raise as you raise your left knee, keeping your toes pointing up and your arms mimicking your running stride. Squeeze your calf and hold it for two to three counts. Slowly return to your starting position.
Elevated side plank with knee drive
Instructions: 4 sets of 8 repetitions per side
Exercise description: Lie on the floor with your elbows right underneath your shoulder blades. Elevate your knee or foot (easier or harder) on the chair and lift your hips to create a straight line from the crown of your head to your foot. When ready, lift your other leg up and bring it into a knee drive as you bring your arm up, mimicking your running stride. Return to your start position and perform the number of repetitions prescribed, before moving on to the other side. Pay close attention to your alignment – you want to keep a straight line and also stay vertical by not allowing your body to twist.
When it comes to weight training, the ideal UA shoe for strength work is the UA HOVR™ Phantom 2. The Phantom 2 is a versatile shoe designed for well-rounded runners. It can work for a short warmup run, as a cross-training shoe, or in the gym. With a breathable mesh upper, durable runner on the outsole, this shoe holds the ground, so you can focus on the task at hand.