Running has become a popular hobby all over the world. Going for a quick run has plenty of health benefits. But some of us want to increase our overall fitness and endurance and take their running to the next level. It is the reason we go to the gym to work out. But what exactly should you train for?
There are 4 muscle groups that all runners should work on. Focusing on these muscles not only improves overall performance but also decreases the risk of injury!
Transverse Abdominus (Core)
Trying to generate force in any direction with a weak core is similar to firing a cannon from a canoe. In terms of running, if a person is trying to generate propulsive force, they need a stable and strong base so that the force goes where they want it to.
It is this reason why you should try to strengthen your transverse abdominals. Having a strong core can prevent unwanted compensatory movements while running that may cause injury over time.
High Planks and Normal Planks
A great way to strengthen the transverse abdominus muscle will be alternating high planks and normal planks for 20 seconds. If you’d also want to engage your glutes (another important muscle group), you can do high planks with one leg straight off the floor for 20 seconds, and then switch over to the other leg.
Seated Leg Lift
The seated leg lift is another exercise to develop strong core and leg muscles for runners. To perform this exercise, lie straight on the floor with your legs straightened. While keeping your back straight, you should lean backwards at a 30 degree angle using their arms for support. Lift one leg straight then pull the knee towards the chest. Then straighten your leg again and finally release to the starting position. Repeat for 4 sets of 10 repetitions.
The Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius
These are vital muscles that make up a person’s posterior. The gluteus maximus and medius play a number of roles in providing stability, power and strength at the pelvis and hip in the plane of motion.
They are also important in how the alignment of the knee is controlled as the standing legs take a person’s body weight as they run. Training your gluteus muscles not only firms everything up, but also prevents hamstring and knee injuries along with poor pelvic posture, shin pain and excess stress on the lower back.
Side-lying Leg Lifts
Lie on your left side on a mat and have your left arm bent and resting underneath the head. The other arm should be in front of the body with the palm facing down on the mat. The legs should be straight with the bottom leg touching the mat and the top leg about 1 foot above the bottom leg. Once in this position, bring the bottom leg up away from the mat to meet the top leg. Hold for 2 seconds and return both legs together to the mat to complete 1 rep. Repeat for 4 sets of 10 repetitions for each leg.
Lie face up on the floor with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Raise the hips so the body forms a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Pause in the upward position and lower the body back to the starting position.
Side Plank Leg Lifts
To do this exercise, lie on your left side and position yourself on your bottom elbow and side of your feet. Lift the hips in the air forming a straight line from the shoulders to the ankles and brace the core, forming a side plank. While keeping your torso stable, raise the top leg without bending the knee. Do not let the hips drop. Then return to the starting position. Repeat for 4 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
When asked which muscles to focus on for runners, people tend to shake their heads with disbelief when they learn that the groin is also an important muscle group. But muscles in this region are rarely targeted in any workout designed for runners.
The adductor muscle brings the legs toward the midline of the body. This occurs during running as people have to move from one side to another. On the other hand, abductor muscles control the speed in running and separate the legs from the midline of the body. Any weakness in this muscle group can cause knee injuries.
Standing Leg Lifts
Standing with your feet slightly apart, bend 1 knee in front up to 90 degrees and raise it until the thigh is parallel to the ground. The hips should still be square to the front. Hold for 3 seconds, and slowly bring the leg back to the starting position. Perform 6 sets of 12 repetitions on each side.
Seated Hip Abductor Exercise
The Seated Hip Abductor Exercise also helps strengthen the groin muscles. To perform this exercise, sit on a chair (a bench or medicine ball will also work) with the knees bent, the feet flat on the floor and the legs together. While maintaining this position, slowly kick 1 leg out and in while squeezing the gluteal muscles. Repeat 10 times and rest for 15 seconds. Alternate this exercise with both legs and complete 6 sets.
The Quads are a common answer when people ask which muscles to focus on for runners. Strong quads help you tackle hills better, and also make you less prone to fatigue. Not exercising this muscle group can result in tightness that cause postural problems that can affect the hips, knees and lower back.
Stand with the back and head against the wall. Position the feet shoulder width apart about 18 inches away from the wall and keep the arms at the sides. Leaning against the wall, lower the body until the knees are flexed at a 90 degree angle. Hold this position for 2 seconds and extend the legs to elevate the body back to the starting position.
Body Weight Squats
Stand straight with your legs spread with hips’ width apart. The toes should be pointing slightly outward or straight ahead. Cross the arms in front of the body or place the hands behind the head. Keep the weight on the heels and bend the knees while lowering the hips towards the ground as if sitting down on a chair while keeping the back straight. Continue until a slight stretch is felt in the quadriceps. Return to the start position by pushing down the heels and extending the hips forward until they are standing straight.
The Bottom Line
Performing exercises that target specific muscle groups is one of the most important non-running aspects of training that can help a person become a better runner. To become the most efficient and best runner that a person can be, strengthening exercises are just as important as putting in your long distance runs.
These exercises can be done at the gym, at home, or even outdoors. Try them out to be a better runner!