Runners often ask me how they can become faster. There are many ways to become faster, but I'm a big believer using strength training. Strength training makes you a stronger, faster more efficent runner.

Stephanieruns Fitness

April 8, 2018 Newsletter

Strength Training for Runners: Lower Body

This is the third newsletter in my strength training for runners series. I split the body into three parts to address the upper body/arms, core, and now the lower body. While the muscles in our bodies are all connected, and the core involves both the upper/lower body I seperated this series out into three newsletters to help keep the content more concise. 

You can catch up on my strength training for runners series here:

The upper body newsletter here.

The core newsletter here,

Stretching and strengthening your feet here.

When runners think of strength training, and especially the lower body, I often hear 'oh I run hills for strength training.' Let me be clear, I think that both have place within your training program, but running hills does not replace a strength training program. As a runner your feet are your foundation, your core stabilizes your waist as you run and your arms propel you forward. You legs are what actually make you run. The major muscle groups of your leg consist of your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Runners are notorious for having tight hamstrings, I bet you're reading this shaking your head in agreement. Statistically the most common injuries for runners are the lower back and knee.  Did you know that your hamstrings intersect with both the lower back and knee? Did you know that your knee stability is mostly dependant on your muscular strength? I feel like a broken record when I say this, but strength training is very important for runners. It makes you stronger, helps reduce your risk of injury, makes you a more a more efficient runner, and makes you faster.

Let's talk exercises! In my experience runners love to squat. Squats are a great exercise and very accessible, you don't need fancy equipment you can do them at home. Although squats utilize all the muscles in your legs as either the primary or secondary muscle group they are predominantly a quadricep exercise. This means to balance out your quads and hamstrings you should also be doing an exercise that focuses on your hamstrings during the same workout. A great exercise for the hamstrings is the Romanian Deadlift, which you can do with dumbbells. I can't stress how important it is to balance out your muscle groups, especially which how important the hamstrings are for runners.

The calf is actually two muscles, the soleus & gastrocnemius. The calf along with your achilles tendon act as shock absorbers when you heel strike during the running gait. Focusing on calf strength can help reduce the impact from your heel strike. When we are running we are balancing on one leg which makes doing single leg exercises important. When it comes to strength training for the calves you can do a single leg heel raise with dumbbells.

As runners our legs are our powerhouse. We need the slow twitch muscular endurance to help get us to the finish line. We also need strength to help give our joints stability and reduce the risk of injury. If you're running longer distances you don't need to build bulk or power, but using lighter weights and doing more repetitions will help you gain muscular endurance which will make you a stronger, faster, more efficient runner.

If you're looking for more help with a strength training plan specific for runners I have a six week plan to help build muscular endurance for runners available on the training peaks store.

Weekly Challenge: Lower Body Stength

This week I want to challenge you to add this leg strength training workout into your routine. You can add this on to the end of one of your workouts or on it's own. If you're doing this as it's own workout don't forget to warm up first!  Try this two to three times this week.

Complete 3 sets of this mini workout. Give yourself 2-3 minutes between sets to recover. Remember we are working on muscular endurance so you can use a lower weight than you can handle.

-squats 12-15 reps as low as you can go

-romanian dumbbell deadlifts 12-15 reps

-single leg calf raises with dumbbells 12-15 reps

Don't forget to stretch and foam roll after. Let me know how it goes!

How Low Should You Squat?

Be honest! Are you still only squatting to 90 degrees? Look at your activities of daily living, they require you to squat past 90 degrees. You aren't going to leave something that fell on the floor there because you'd have to squat past 90 degrees.

I tell my clients to squat as low as they can go, provided they use good form and have no pain. Squats are another great exercise to do in front of a mirror so you can check your form. Some people also do well with a chair/bench behind them where they pretend they are going to sit down. Squatting past 90 degrees is not bad for your knees, it will help with your everyday activities. Just remember to use good form and don't squat in pain!

So go ahead, give it a try! 

I hope you've enjoyed my strength training for runners series. I'm sure if won't be the last time I walk about strength training. If you found it helpful please share it and encourage your friends to subscribe

If you have any running questions you would like me to answer in an upcoming newsletter send me a message!

Let's keep the conversation going all week on social media! Let me know what you thought of this newsletter.

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Stephanieruns Fitness

461 North Service Rd West
Oakville Ontario,  L6M 2V5 - Canada

Website: Stephanieruns Fitness

Twitter: @srunsfitness

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries as a result of the above content.

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