Here are some simple and common strength training exercises that benefit runners. These exercises help build core muscle strength, and most of these do not require equipment!
Prop yourself up with your forearms while keeping your feet slightly apart. Keep your body aligned and your abs drawn in and up. The shoulders should be parallel with the body, and your body should be as straight as a plank. Hold plank pose for up to 45 seconds - or until you start to feel your abs shaking. (Shaking is good!) This exercise strengthens the core, the shoulders, and the lower back. Repeat 3-5 times.
This one requires a small footstool about 6 inches high. Start in pushup position with your feet elevated on your step stool. Raise your right knee up towards the left shoulder and rotate the hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then rotate the hips to the right and try to imagine touching your right foot with your left shoulder. (Imagine, because you won’t actually be able to do it!) The shape your right leg makes looks like a scorpion’s tail curling upwards, hence the name. Switch legs and do as many repetitions as you can. Spice things up by resting your legs on a stability ball. This exercise works the core as well as the shoulder muscles.
This one works well with a stability ball, but you can also perform the exercise on soft ground. Start by lying face down on the ball with your feet spread and touching the floor. Bend your elbows with your hands slightly touching the ground for balance. Squeeze the glutes and lift your torso up until your body resembles plank pose. As you raise your torso, lift your hands off the ground and keep your elbows bent while you extend your arms overhead. Hold this position for about 3 seconds and then return to the starting position. The entire exercise should be one steady and fluid motion. Work up to 10 reps. This exercise strengthens your middle and lower back, glutes, and shoulders.
-Kettlebell Squats with Overhead Press
Hold a kettlebell to your chest while standing straight with your feet hip’s distance apart. Pushing your hips back, gently squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. As you do this, raise the kettlebell up and above your head, and then gently return to the standing position with the kettlebell still raised. Slowly return kettlebell to the center of your chest. This exercise strengthens the quads, glutes, hamstrings, upper and lower back, and shoulders. Do as many reps as feels right.
Using a pair of dumbbells, hold them in the air above your shoulders. With your arms straight, step forward with the left leg and lower the body until the left knee is at a 90-degree angle. Lunge back gently towards the starting position and repeat the exercise on the other side. If your arms get tired, give them a break so as not to injure yourself. This exercise builds strength in the quads, hamstrings, core, shoulders, and glutes.
-The Knee Cross Crunch
This exercise is simple and requires no equipment whatsoever. From standing, keep your arms out and bent, as if in a boxing stance. Raise your left knee to your right elbow. The knee is what is primarily moving, but lower your elbow slightly to touch the kneecap if you wish. Then, gently lower the left knee back to its starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. This exercise improves balance and coordination, while also strengthening the upper and lower oblique muscles. Work up to 10 reps.
May all you runners out there be inspired to integrate a regular strength training program to enhance your running adventures! You won’t regret it!
Photo credit: By Jaykayfit (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons