When I first started training as a runner, strength work wasn’t as developed as it is today. But the most effective way to prevent injury is to build a good foundation of strength through specific exercises.
The winter months are the best time to incorporate strength work into your training because the focus is already on lower-intensity sessions and you’re less likely to hurt yourself.
So here are four exercises which I use to help stay injury free and strong. If possible, I’d recommend doing the following workout up to three times per week during the winter period. Do three sets of eight for each session, building up to three sets of 12. Then continue to incorporate an element of strength training into your programme as the race season approaches.
Major muscles used Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, calf (gastrocnemius, soleus)
Benefit This exercise works on your glute strength, proprioception and balance using your own bodyweight. It keeps your glutes firing well, and helps to improve your run and cycling performance.
What to do
Stand between two benches. Start by stepping up on either the left or right leg, squeeze glute on leg taking your weight. Keep the other leg straight. Step down returning to the original position. Repeat and alternate legs.
Single Leg Split Lunge
Major muscles used Gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, calf
Benefit An effective leg strengthener that targets the glutes, the upper thighs and the calves. It’s a great exercise for building strength in your running and cycling legs.
What to do Facing away from the bench, rest one foot on top and let the other foot take your body weight. Squat down until resting knee is almost on the floor, squeeze your glute and push up through your heel. Return to original position, alternate legs.
Seated Hamstring Curls
Major muscles used Hamstrings
Benefit Strengthens your hamstrings and helps balance out quads and hamstrings.
What to do Use a manageable weight. Push hand lever down to lower leg pads. Place legs in between pads. Release hand lever gradually, and focus on pulling the weight with your hamstrings. Then take legs back to original position and repeat until you’ve completed your specified reps.
Seated Leg Extensions
Major muscles used Quadriceps
Benefit Builds strength in your quadriceps and can also improve patella (knee) tracking.
What to do Use a manageable weight. Sit back with your back flat to the chair. Place hands on the side handles to help keep you balanced and firmly in the seat. Move lever forward and upward by extending knees until they are straight. Return to the original position. Repeat.