If you want to run and avoid the all too common aches and pains that can be associated with pounding the pavements week in and week out, you need to strengthen your body to be able to cope with all of that pressure on your bones, joints, tendons, ligaments etc.
Key areas to strengthen are glutes, quads, hamstrings, calfs, hip flexors, adductors, abs, and you can do that very effectively with body weight exercises performed at home, 2-3 times per week.
Here are the 5 exercises I’d recommend you start with. After 6 weeks on this program you’ll be ready for something more challenging, so check back for part 2 in this series which will include the use of kettlebells.
Bicycle – 2-3 sets of 20-30 repetitions. (target muscles – rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques)
Lying on your back, in a cycling motion, alternate bringing your knees towards your opposite elbows, just like you are cycling a bike. The rep ranges are the total amount of reps of both sides combined.
Bird dog – 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions. (target muscles – transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, glutes, erector spinae, lower trapezius, rhomboids)
Start on all fours. Lift your opposite arm and leg out to form a straight line. Then bring them together and touch elbow to knee underneath you. Then return them back to a straight line. That’s one rep. Do all 15 reps on one side before moving to the other. Make sure you lift your arms above your ears and your leg fully straightens with your toes pulled towards you.
Squats – 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps (target muscles – quads, glutes, adductors)
Adopt a stance around shoulder width that feels strong, push your weight back into your heels and then lower yourself down until your hamstrings touch your calves. If your toes point out on angles, make sure your knees point in the same direction. Try and remain upright with your torso. When standing back up, the hips and shoulders must rise at the same time. Once you become accustomed to these basic technique points, you can experiment with a wider or narrower stances, and loading your squat with a weight such as a kettlebell or barbell. Its a good idea to vary between wide and narrower squat stances as this brings in different muscles such as the adductors which can often cause problems if left untouched. Get them strong and avoid this issue.
Hip bridge – 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps (target muscles – glutes, hamstrings)
For this one use your settee to rest your upper back onto. Push into your heels for more glute engagement, push into your mid feet for more hamstring. Keep your chin tucked and don’t lift your hips to high, otherwise you might feel some discomfort in your lower back.
Rocking push up (or regular) – 2-3 sets of 20-25 repetitions. (target muscles – pectorals, deltoids, triceps, serratus anterior)
The rocking push up is a great way to get started with push ups that combines upper body strength with some vestibular stimulation which is great for increasing proprioception and mobility. Start on all fours and rock your weight forward so that your chest almost touches the floor, then push away and sit all the way back into Childs pose from yoga. That’s one rep.
Once you are able to perform all of these exercises at the higher end of the set/rep range, you are ready for either some load to be added or to try out some more advanced exercises.
Check back soon for the next instalment in this series of strength training for runners at home.