10 Running-Specific Strength Training Exercises
One-Leg Heel Raise
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Why: To strengthen the calf muscles for running How: Stand with the ball of one foot toward the edge of a step so that the heel can sink down directly behind the step; the foot is perpendicular to the front edge of the step with the heel hovering in midair. Use a wall or banister for balance if needed. Adopt a running-specific posture with the hip and knee of the supporting leg flexed slightly. Flex the other leg at the hip as though that thigh was swinging forward during running. Let the heel of the supporting leg sink down as far as it will go, then use the calf muscles of that leg to lift the heel up as high as possible, and rock forward onto the toes. Complete 10 smooth, rhythmic reps on that leg. Rest for a few seconds and then repeat the sequence on the other leg.
Backward Heel Walking
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Why: To improve balance and shin strength How: Walk backward on your heels with toes pointed straight. Keep the legs relatively straight and take fairly small steps. Maintain coordinated movement and erect posture; keep the ankles dorsiflexed as much as possible.
One-Leg Alternating Overhead Dumbbell Press
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Why: To improve upper-body and core strength while also upgrading leg strength in a running-specific way How: Stand on one foot in a running-specific posture. Flex the non-supporting knee so that the shin is parallel with the ground; flex that hip slightly so that the thigh is just in front of the body. Hold dumbbells in front of the shoulders with palms facing forward and dumbbells facing straight ahead. Use alternating arm action to perform 10 presses with each arm. Rest for a moment, switch feet, and perform 10 presses with each arm while standing on the other foot.
One-Leg Medicine Ball Drill
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Why: To strengthen the feet, ankles, legs, core and upper body for running How: Stand in a natural running position on one foot about 4 to 5 feet from a smooth wall; hold a medicine ball in front of you. The non-support foot is held just off the ground. Throw 10 chest passes at the wall, catching the ball on the return before it hits the ground. Throw the ball hard and a little high so that it bounces right back at about chest level. Maintain balance on the supporting foot through each throw and catch. Put the toes of the non-supporting leg on the ground behind you for support if you need extra balance. Throw 10 overhead passes and catch each return in front of your chest. Then, throw 10 underhand passes and catch each return. Use an action a bit like the one-leg squat: squat and lean forward slightly with your upper body before the throw.
One-Leg Medicine Ball Drill con't
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Why: To strengthen the feet, ankles, legs, core and upper body for running How: Turn sideways so that your supporting side is closer to the wall and hurl the ball 10 times across your body to the wall; catch it on the return before it hits the ground. This movement is great for the trunk rotator muscles. Finally, turn so that the non-supporting leg is closer to the wall; throw the ball across your body and against the wall 10 times, catching it as before. For the sideways throws, use a natural swing action by swinging the ball away from the wall before accelerating it across your body and releasing it; the upper body rotates away from the wall and then toward it for each throw. Switch feet, stand on the other foot, and repeat each variation.
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Why: To strengthen the leg muscles in a running-specific manner, with strong emphasis on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles How: Stand on one leg directly in front of a chair, weight bench, or platform; face away from the chair or bench. Keep the non-support leg straight and extended out in front of your body. Slowly descend with your buttocks moving downward to the chair by squatting on the supporting leg. Continue to hold the non-supporting leg out straight. Keep the upper body relatively vertical and relaxed at all times. When your buttocks reach the chair or bench, gradually rise by straightening the supporting leg. Move in a smooth, controlled manner at all times. Don't let the buttocks slam onto the chair, and move upward after reaching the chair in a smooth and coordinated manner.
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Why: Upgrades the strength and dynamic flexibility of the legs How: Stand tall, take a big step forward with one foot, and land on the midfoot with the knee in line vertically with the foot. Immediately drop down into a lunge squat, contract the glutes to power back up into an erect body position, bring the rear foot forward, and stand tall to complete one rep. Then reverse the feet, taking a big step forward with the other foot, and follow the same procedure to complete one rep on both legs. Continue moving forward, alternating legs, until each leg has lunged eight times. Make sure the torso doesn't fall forward during the lunges; upper-body posture should be straight and tall, and there are no lateral movements of the legs or trunk during the lunge and squat.
One-Leg Fatigue-Fighting Row
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Why: Strengthens the upper body and core for running; helps you maintain proper alignment when fatigued How: Loop a stretch cord over a post or support structure and stand far enough back from the support so that the cord is taut. Stand on one leg with the other knee bent just enough to keep the non-supporting foot off the ground. Hold the cord handles straight forward in the hand opposite the supporting leg; apply good tension on the stretch band. Point the supporting foot, knee and hips straight ahead toward the post or structure. Keep the head up, retract the shoulders so the blades are squeezed together and pulled down, and hold the arm close to the side during pulling. Pull the cord so that the elbow moves past the body and backwards so that your hand is brought to your side. Stand tall at all times with no forward or backward leaning. Keep the shoulders down as you perform the movement. Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm and leg.
Side-Walking With Strength Band
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Why: To strengthen the iliotibial bands, improve hip stability, and prevents medial collapse of thigh during stance How: Stand tall, keep feet parallel, and stand on a strength band with the arches of both feet. Cross the band in front of body, making an X with the band in front of the legs. Hold the band at your sides with arms hanging straight down, thumbs pointed out and shoulders back and down. Don't let the legs turn out. Move laterally to one side for about 33 feet and then back the same distance. Move along with small sideways steps with the torso upright, the shoulders back and down and the head looking forward.
One-Leg Hop in Place
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Why: To promote explosiveness in a running-specific manner How: Stand with one foot forward and one foot back with feet about shin-length apart from front to back and hip-width apart from side to side. Place the toes of the back foot on a block or step 6 to 8 inches high. Direct your weight through the middle to the ball of the supporting foot. Hop rapidly on the supporting foot at a cadence of 2.5 to 3 hops per second, or 25 to 30 foot contacts per 10 seconds for the prescribed time. Lift the knee of the hopping leg about 4 to 6 inches with each upward hop; keep the other leg and foot stationary on the block. Keep the hopping foot striking the ground and springing upward rapidly as if in contact with a hot stove. Keep the hips fairly level and virtually motionless throughout the exercise with little vertical displacement. After completing the first set, rest for a moment, and then repeat the one-leg hops on the other leg. Rest again and perform one more set on each leg. A set is 60 seconds of continuous hopping on one foot.
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Why: To improve explosiveness, coordination and ankle strength How: Jog a few strides and then move diagonally to one side. When the foot that moved to the side makes contact with the ground, hop once quickly in place. Then, explosively jump diagonally forward, landing on the other foot.
Diagonal Hop con't
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How: When this foot makes contact with the ground, hop once quickly in place and then explode diagonally in the opposite direction. Repeat the cycle for about 130 feet. Stay relaxed at all times and move in a rhythmic, coordinated manner. Look straight ahead, not at your feet.