It's a common misconception that all you need to become a runner is a good pair of sneakers and the will to get out the front door. "Most people don't understand that running is a skill that has to be learned," says Steve Gisselman C.S.C.S. "You have to train to become faster." Whether you're a weekend warrior or gearing up for a marathon with a specific running schedule in mind, you should be supplementing your runs with additional workouts to strengthen your form and stave off injury. Gisselman gave us 10 drills to help build running strength, and improve cadence, rhythm, and efficiency. Do 2 sets of 5 of each on your run days, and 3 sets of 5 on your off days.
The speed ladder is great way to warm up and develop footwork. "It helps with cadence and a runner's ability to respond to ground reaction force," says Gisselman. It will "make you lighter on your feet and teach you how to develop a neutral foot strike."
Running forward, step one foot at a time in each square alternating between the left and right side of the ladder. Stay on the balls of your feet with an upright posture and lean forward slightly. Try to look forward, not at the ground, and concentrate on well-placed foot strikes and arm movement. Turn and repeat.
Lateral stair runs are a great way to spice up a carioca, adding height and a little gravity resistance to build up your glutes and knees while fine-tuning the balance between your core and legs.
Run sideways up one step at a time, keeping your body weight forward and raising your knees straight up while you swing your arms to balance yourself. Bend your foot upward before a foot-strike on each step. Work toward reducing the amount of time your foot touches each step. Walk down steps and repeat.
Jumping rope translates well into a runner's range of motion. It teaches you to coordinate your arms with your feet and your legs, while engraining a system of rhythm and pace into your body. It's a great way to work out your calves without overdoing it.
Jump on the balls of your feet (not heels) and keep your shoulders above the hips. Work toward increasing jump speed and decreasing the amount of time your feet touch the ground.
Core strength is key for a runner. Not for sideliners, the power plank is a formidable challenge that will develop core strength, quads, and overall stability and balance throughout your body.
Start with the hands under the shoulders, knees under hips, and a neutral spine. Keeping the knees off the floor, extend the hip and knee and simultaneously flex the opposite shoulder. Either continue with the same arm and leg or repeat the movements with both limbs in an alternating fashion. Make sure to keep your back straight. Hold a dumbbell to progress the exercise.
Keeping your shoulders square and your head straight in line with your body, prop yourself up sideways with your elbow and the outer side of your heel (your feet should stack on top of eachother). Lift a dumbbell (5 pounds is a good start) with your other arm from the ground and straight up into the air, keeping your lifting arm in line with your supporting elbow.
Activates lower back and hamstrings, but most importantly, works your glutes and opens up your hips' range of motion. Most runners don't utilize the power of the glutes and put too much work on their hamstrings. Bench bridging will help your body learn to take advantage of these often overlooked joints and muscles.
Laying your arms and hands on the floor for stability and with the heel of your foot on a raised bench, lift up your mid torso. Be careful to keep your spine straight and your bench foot stable and in line with your hip. Alternate legs after each set.
Increases stability and develops hip and adductor (inner thigh) strength.
Secure the band or tubing around the thigh, pulling in a lateral direction. Squat up and down, keeping the shoulders above the hips. Maintain balance, keeping the feet, knees, and hips aligned. To vary the exercise, alter the direction that the band pulls or have someone else pull the band at random.
Adductors, obliques, core, and lower back. Lateral lunges hit all the key areas that are most important for runners.
Holding two dumbbells (5 lbs to start) lunge sideways lowering both dumbbells towards the ground, then press firmly off the leg back to start position. Make sure your back doesn't bend. Alternate sides with each rep. Increase weight as you progress.
Develops leg strength and explosive power (calves especially) while teaching you how to transfer force from your feet and develop proper arm movement.
Keeping your hips and shoulders square, use the momentum of your swinging arms to jump sideways over the box, back and forth. Work toward hitting the ground lightly and decreasing the amount of time you're touching the ground.