Boost Your Race Performance: Top 5 Strength Exercises for Marathon Runners
When we talk to runners in the NOM community, the number one mistake we hear athletes making is not spending enough time in the weight room working on strength training. So much of success in running comes down to increasing your aerobic efficiency and capacity. But by ignoring the gym to focus solely on road miles and speed workouts, many runners miss out on a huge opportunity to increase their strength, power, and explosiveness. Today we're going to cover our top 5 favorite strength workouts to boost your marathon race performance.
If you're new to weight lifting, we always recommend talking with a qualified coach or at least watching some videos of each exercise, to ensure you have proper form and safety before adding any weight.
Squats: Build Powerful Legs
Do you want to run fast uphill? Do you want improve your spring and acceleration in sprints? Squats, the foundational leg workout, are crucial to achieving strong quads and glutes to carry you through the longest races. In one compound motion you activate muscles from your calves to your core, benefiting your strength, endurance, and durability. If you've never done traditional front or back squats, start with a body-weight only motion. With your feet shoulder-width apart and a straight back, slowly lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then, quickly spring back up and repeat.
Deadlifts: The Backbone of Strength
Next time you're out running and start to get tired, notice your posture. Is your upper body starting to sag forward, dropping and losing rigidity? Does your core feel weak and unbalanced? Deadlifts will help. By focusing on your posterior chain, from your hamstrings up to your back, deadlifts provide a key strength and stability workout that will pay dividends for your ability to run longer and harder. Start with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells or a barbell. As you lift to stand up, focus on driving through your heels, while keeping your back straight and upright. Ensure you hinge through your hips to prevent your back from curving, and as you lower back down, keep the weights close to your shins.
Lunges: Balance and Strength in Every Step
Lunges aren't as glamorous as squats and deadlifts, but this simple motion targets all the muscle groups key to a strong and consistent stride while running. Not only will lunges strengthen your legs, you'll also improve your balance, stability, and core. Step forward, lowering your body until both of your knees are at right angles, then push back up. Each lunge should feel like an exaggerated deep step as you lower your knee towards the floor.
Box Jumps: Harness Your Explosiveness
Dreaming of finishing your next race with a strong sprint across cross the finish line? Then it's time to work on your explosiveness! Box Jumps are a plyometric exercise focused on improving your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are utilized during quick movements like sprints or steep uphill runs. If you do enough in short succession, you'll also fire up your anaerobic system, improving your body's ability to tolerate and process lactic acid. Box jumps are easy to visualize, simply grab a sturdy box (something small to start with), bend down, and jump your way to the top. Swing your arms and try to land softly, and increase your box height once your are comfortable with the motion.
Planks: Building a Core of Steel
A strong core allows for the efficient transfer of motion and energy through your body, improving your running efficiency and longevity. Runners often have underdeveloped core muscles, which are usually the first to tire over long distances, weakening stride and posture. Planks are a classic endurance workout, simple but effective. Get into a face-down position, similar to a push-up, resting either on your hands or forearms. With a straight back and tight glutes, hold the position for as long as possible. We like timed sets, slowly increasing the overall duration of this workout.
By targeting muscle groups key to your marathon running performance, strength training offers a huge boost in your power, stability, and injury-prevention. Ensure you allocate time for these gym workouts in your next training block - you won't regret it!