Strong, confident runners possess total body strength necessary to stabilize the body while not exerting additional energy. Muscles such as the abdominals, the lower and upper back, the quadriceps, and hamstrings all play a vital role in supporting the entire body while running. Integrating weight lifting into a running program has the potential to propel an average runner to the next level.
Touted for various fitness (and cosmetic) benefits, the core is essential for runners. The core includes the abdominals, as well as the lower back. This area is responsible for holding the body at the ideal posture—critical while running. A runner with a weak core will tend to slouch when tired, thus making the body vulnerable to injury. A weight lifting program that involves the core can give runners the luxury of not wasting any additional energy during that tiring run.
A program that strengthens the core can be accomplished with body weight activities. Side planks, regular planks, and supermans are a strong start to a strong core.
Most runners don't immediately think of the upper back when embarking on a weight lifting program, but the upper back plays an important role in running. While the core muscles are holding the torso straight, perpendicular to the ground, the upper back should be keeping the shoulders from falling forward.
Similar to the core, planks are effective in strengthening the upper back. To add additional strength, reverse flys with dumbbells in each hand and weighted rows are highly effective.
Although an obvious component of running, many runners neglect to weight train the lower body, relying solely on running as a lower body exercise. However, running is a high impact exercise that is made much more tolerable by a strong lower body. Additionally, weight lifting that involves the lower body will also strengthen the muscles around the joints helping to prevent injuries and pain.
Weighted lunges are a great tool in strengthening the lower body. Lunges also mimic the motion—albeit exaggerated—of running. Lunges work the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes in a similar fashion to running. Lunges also act as a great stabilizing exercise for the knees and ankles.
To become a strong, confident runner, weight lifting is essential. Weight lifting gives a runner the advantage of not wasting extra energy trying to adjust the body and compensate for weaknesses while running. Integrate weight lifting into a complete running program and start reaping the benefits extra strength has to offer.