Strength training isn't just for gym fanatics—it can help improve your running form, help you stave off injuries and speed you on your way to a new PR. Los Angeles-based trainer Holly Perkins, author of Lift to Get Lean, has trained celebrities and marathon stars alike, and put together this routine specifically for runners and readers of ACTIVE.com.
Perform these exercises at least twice per week.
Walking Weighted Lunges: "These increase strength in all the direct running muscles," Perkins says. The walking motion adds a stability element to challenge your core and strengthen small proprioceptive muscles to further help prevent injuries.
Hold a light (two to 10 pounds, depending on your strength) dumbbell in each hand, and step forward into a lunge. Be sure to keep your front knee behind your toes, as with a regular lunge, and keep your chin and torso up, sinking directly down toward the ground. Press up and step forward with the other leg. "Walk" across the room 10 steps before turning around and repeating for a set of 10 on each leg. Rest for one minute and repeat.
Back Squats: "The full-body 'pushing' movement of these classic squats helps sync the upper and lower body for core stability, and it improves overall strength," Perkins says.
Hold a bar behind your head or place your fingers at your ears. Looking ahead, with chin up and feet hip-distance apart, sink down into a squat. Keep as much weight in your heels as possible, with your knees behind your toes. Press back up to start and repeat for three sets of 10.
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Deadlifts: "The full-body 'pulling' move helps improve the functional efficacy of your hamstrings and glutes, which tend to be weak in runners," Perkins says.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the front of your hips. Keeping knees slightly bent, slowly bend forward and down, keeping your back flat, and arms straight. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings, to pull your body back to start. Repeat for three sets of 10.
Reverse-Grip Lat Pulldowns: "These help improve core alignment and keep your upper body strong to assist in overall resilience," Perkins says.
Sit at a lat-pulldown station, and grip the bar with your palms facing you. Pull the bar down in front of you to about chin level while squeezing your back just below your shoulder blades. Return to start and repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
Single Leg Deadlifts: "These work the [gluteus] medius, which helps with hip and knee alignment," Perkins says. The one-legged action also improves balance and stability.
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells as with the two-legged deadlifts, but lift one knee to balance on one leg. Slowly lower the dumbbells toward the floor, keeping your back straight as before, and allow the free leg to go behind you for balance. Use your glutes and hamstring muscles from your standing leg to pull you back to start. Perform 10 on each leg before resting for the next set.