With the national lockdown due to COVID-19, I’ve noticed a lot of people in recent weeks taking up running due to constraints on their usual methods of exercise. Running is a great form of exercise, but if running is new for you, it’s really important to not only progress gradually, but also ensure you have sufficient strength in certain muscles prior to starting, in order to prevent injuries.
In this blog I will present a series of videos ranging from difficulty level 1-3, which demonstrate ways to strengthen muscles essential for running.
The exercises demonstrated in this video
will help you start to activate and then build up some baseline strength in key muscles which are important for running. They are good starter level exercises to work on muscle activation prior to progressing the loading.
Remember that these will not only hopefully reduce your risk of injury but can also help you improve your running speed and endurance.
1. Calf raises – you can either do these from the floor or off a step (which is harder). The progression is from 2 legs to 1 leg. Make sure to keep a straight knee when doing it:
a) Double leg calf raise (15-20 reps / 3 sets)
b) Single leg calf raise (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
2. Soleus squat hold – this can be progressed from 2 legs to 1 leg. (Hold 20-30 seconds / x 4-6 reps)
3. Glute bridges – Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Tilt your pelvis back towards you and then lift your hips off the floor squeezing your gluteal muscles. (NB Don’t lift too high or you can hurt your lower back.) This can be progressed from 2 legs to 1 leg.
a) Double leg glute bridge (15-20 reps / 3 sets)
b) Single leg glute bridge (8-15 reps / 3 sets)
4. Side lying hip abduction: Lie on your side with your bottom leg bent to 90 degrees. Lift your top leg straight up in line with your body. Don’t let your top hip roll back when lifting and ensure the glute (buttock) muscles are working to lift your leg (not the muscles on the front of your thigh). (15-20 reps / 3 sets)
5. Body weight squats: this is a nice and easy way to teach yourself the squat movement pattern which is the basis for many other lower limb strengthening exercises. (10-15 reps / 3 sets)
Try and carry out these exercises 3-4 times per week alongside your normal training programme. If you do them correctly you should notice improvements within 2-4 weeks and will be able to progress to level 2 exercises.
So now you’ve hopefully built up some baseline strength doing the exercises I suggested in level 1 and you should be ready for some progressions.
The level 2 exercises demonstrated in this video
are slightly more challenging and will not only progress the strength of key muscles required for running, but they will also help you learn some important movement patterns for running:
1. Split squats (8-12 reps / 3 sets)
2. Step up / downs – power on the way up and control on the way down (8-12 reps / 3 sets)
3. Single leg deadlift (8-12 reps / 3 sets)
4. Single leg squats (8-12 reps / 3 sets)
5. Single leg calf raise – weighted (12-15 reps / 3 sets)
With these exercises it is important to control your pelvis, hip, knee and ankle position. Try and maintain your hip in line with you knee and ankle and don’t let your knees and ankles roll in. It is more important to work on being able to perform the correct movement pattern and once you can carry out the suggested reps and sets whilst maintaining good control, then you can start to add some weight.
Give them a go approximately 3 times per week for 2-4 weeks before considering the next progression.
Once you have performed the level 2 exercises for a few weeks and you are able to do them with good technique and no pain, now is simply the time to load up. So, whatever home equipment you have, use it to make the exercises slightly harder.
There are many different weighted versions of these movement patterns but the exercises demonstrated in this video
are some examples to have a go at:
1. Goblet squats with a dumbbell / kettle bell (8-12 reps / 3-5 sets)
2. Split squats holding dumbbells (Tip – if you don’t own dumbbells, you can fill water bottles with flour / sugar) (8-12 reps / 3-5 sets)
3. Forward / Backward / Walking lunges with dumbbells (8-12 reps / 3-5 sets)
4. Weighted deadlifts (8-12 reps / 3-5 sets)
5. Weighted step ups / downs (8-10 reps / 3-5 sets)
6. Weighted calf raises (Tip – if you don’t own weights, use a loaded rucksack) (8-12 reps / 3-5 sets
Try and gradually increased the weight if able. At home, most people are limited with the heaviness of weights that you have, so you need to use inventive ways of sufficiently loading up these exercises. Options include slowing down the tempo / pause reps / super sets 💪.
Now you should be ready to start running. Just remember to progress the distance slowly and gradually. If you are a true novice, it may be worth following an online training guide, such as ‘couch to 5k’.
Good luck, enjoy and don’t forget to smile.