The best thing you can do to improve your running is to…run. But then apart from getting your recovery right to absorb this training, what’s the next most important addition to your weekly regime? We think it’s weight training. By lifting heavy we increase power, which will result in better running economy and as research has proven, a reduction in injury risk. So here’s our list of the essential leg exercises you should include in your gym sessions. One word of warning though – Before implementing a strength program it’s best to get a suitably qualified instructor to take you through your gym program or work with one for the first few weeks. They can help ensure your technique is good, and if not, help build your strength and form to a point where you can go about your workout without their watchful eyes.
How often should you lift?
Start with one legs session a week and a second ‘overall’ workout on another day. Then after a couple months, pop a second, lighter leg day in there if time permits. Also, don’t lift heavy inside five days of a race and increase your protein intake the day of and day after workouts.
How many reps?
Start with 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps. Then after a few weeks, drop the number of reps to 4 to 6. Always begin your sessions with a light warm up, such as 5 minutes on a stationary bike. Plus commence each exercise with a warm up set, where you lift half your normal weight, but focus on perfect technique. As for a warm down, if you’ve got the time, then just spin the legs out on the bike for 5 to 10 minutes.
What sequence of exercises should I do?
I like to begin with the heaviest lifting and the exercises that require the greatest effort to maintain form, and also to alternate muscle groups. So my order is: squats, deadlifts, calf raises, leg press and finally, lunges.
1. Squats – Emphasises glut and quad development, which are the prime movers for runners.
2. Deadlifts – Glut and hamstring strength. It’s important to balance your muscle groups, so hammy work is necessary when working on quad power.
3. Lunges – A good overall leg exercise that’s quite specific in movement to running.
4. Leg press – A mostly quad focused exercise that allows you to move a big weight in relative safety.
5. Calf Raises – Gastroc and soleus strength helps reduce Achilles and ankle issues and improves efficiency on foot strike.