Strength training beginners

When it comes to making strides, runners are, more often than not, laser-focused on adding a mile. It’s not a bad approach – more miles are one way to become a better runner. But there’s more you can do: strength training. In general, strength exercises “help maintain or increase muscle tissue and improve bone density over time, and also help reduce injuries and body fat,” says Yusuf Jeffers, a strength, conditioning and running coach. “When applied to a runner, strength training will help with increased speed, power and neural adaptations.”

If you’re not used to lifting, getting started can be intimidating. So, some strength and running professionals let us in on the golden rules of weight training – tips that build the foundation of an effective and efficient strength running program, especially for runners.

Ready to pick up some weights? Follow this expert guide on strength training for beginners…

Start new movements using only your body weight

‘Beginner lifters should start with no weight, and with the guidance of a
professional, to learn the proper technique and emphasize the characteristics of the correct movement,” says Natalie Niemczyk, physiotherapist and owner of Revolution Running Physical Therapy in New York. You want to allow the body to go through an adjustment period, in which you may feel increased fatigue and need more recovery – similar to when you started.
running program, says Niemczyk.

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight program, switch to lighter weights. The stimulus you will receive, even with light weights, will be very early in your strength journey, says AndySpeer, a tread and strength instructor at Peloton. He notes that technique, balance and range of motion are all more important initially.

Incorporate holds into your strength training routine

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Isometric exercises also benefit runners’ strength and stability. These movements require contraction of a specific muscle or group of muscles and maintain the contraction in the same position for time (think tables).

“Isometrics are a powerful training tool, especially for runners,” says Speer. “Holding positions for 30 to 60 seconds, such as lunges and single-leg balances, helps strengthen muscles, connective tissue and your heart.”

In addition, it can be the best way to help fortify the body against internal and external forces, which will help you maintain a stable posture during activities such as running. This is an important factor, as a good running posture can make you more efficient, and also help to avoid overuse injuries, such as knee and IT band pain.

Target your entire lower half

Glutes, or group of muscles in your back, are your power as a runner. And when it comes to sprinting performance, research has found that strong glutes are key. The quads and hamstrings also play a crucial role. What about the rest of the leg, although People often neglect everything below the knee – but you should not.

Your calves and tibialis anterior [the muscle in the front of your shin]are very important in running,” says Speer. The former lifts your heel and provides much of the power needed for running, while the latter helps with dorsiflexion (the action of the toes pulling up to the shin ). Speer’s tip: using a wall for balance, perform calf and toe raises
grow up. Do two to three sets of 10 reps each, increasing over time.

Focus on compound movements and muscles in running

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When it comes to choosing what moves to do for your strength workouts, Jeffers suggests compound exercises that complement running movement patterns versus single-joint isolation exercises. This means doing movements like squats (working several muscle groups, like quads and glutes). These types of lifts recruit more muscle groups, leading to a greater response, he says. The search for agreement: a study in Frontiers in physiology found that multi-joint exercises could provide higher gains in physical performance, thanks to a greater increase in cardiorespiratory fitness and maximum strength, compared to uni-joint. You should also make sure your strength workouts focus on unilateral (or one-sided) movements, such as single-leg deadlifts and lunge variations, says Speer.

Time your strength work to your run or race

Strength training — which Niemczyk says is most effective when performed two to three times a week in the off-season and one to two times a week while training for a race — is meant to support your running, not make it harder. . That means starting a strength program too close to race day can not only hinder your race performance, but also put you at risk of injury, he says. Plus, “adding too much lifting volume while your running volume is increasing can be counterproductive,” says Speer. “If your weekly mileage increases to a challenging level, keep your lifting manageable and consistent. As you lighten your running mileage, this is a good time to push your weights.

Runners should aim to periodize their strength training if possible, says Jeffers, just like you do with your running. Meaning, pick up your lifting routine when you’re training for a shorter, faster run, rather than starting a lifting program when you’re also training for a marathon.

Involve your mind, not just your body, in the workout

“Make sure you’re not just going through the motions, but feeling the right muscles turn on,” says physical therapist and running coach Carly Graham Brady. For example, you want to focus on “actually drive through your heels to use your glutes.” [in moves such as squats, deadlifts and lunges] or keeping your core tight during ab’ work. Jeffers agrees, adding that it’s crucial to perform each repetition with good form, focusing on the quality of the movement versus the quantity.

Take rest breaks

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Resist the temptation to turn your lifting session into a cardio workout if you really want to get stronger. That means resting between sets and letting your heart rate drop, advises Jeffers. Proper rest “helps to be able to give appropriate intense efforts to elicit muscle adaptations,” he says. If you rest for at least a minute between big movements, such as deadlifts, that rest period will allow you to continue lifting heavy, instead of abandoning or sacrificing form because you are tired from insufficient recovery.

Record your lift sessions to track your progress

As you track your runs, you should record the movements you do and the weights you lift in strength sessions, says Jeffers. Progressive overload – or gradually increasing the weight, frequency or number of repetitions in your strength training routine – is what leads to strength gains and prevents you from hitting a plateau. To make sure you’re moving forward, keep track of where you are. In addition, seeing the progress you have made over time can build confidence, especially if you started with, for example, body weight squats and now lift 15 to 20 kg in that movement.

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