“Nothing will ever replace the importance of the content of your run,” explains Los Angeles–based trainer David Siik. Sounds reasonable for runners. But is that enough? Siik, creator of the popular Equinox treadmill class, Precision Running, says no. That’s because without some strength work, it’s difficult to have good running form—and proper form prevents injury and enables you to go faster with less effort. He offers three mini-workouts to tack onto your runs that strengthen your runner body in just a few minutes.
When should I do strength work?
After Your Run: Siik says if you lift beforehand, you’ll end up cheating on the run. If you do it when you’re fatigued from running, you can focus on proper form, which forces you to directly strengthen the areas you need most for running.
How much should this hurt?
When you’re doing the exercises, you shouldn’t be in agony. You’re working hard, but you wouldn’t label it “painful.” One or two days later, it’s common to feel soreness and tightness—Siik says, “a sign that you are engaging those muscles more!” Mix up the workouts, and take a day off when needed.
Can I do all of the strength work on my rest day(s) from running?
Siik prefers to group the exercises on run days. After running, you’ve got the blood flowing and lubed your joints, so there’s less chance of injury. Also, then rest days can be more about your whole body recovering.
If I only do one exercise, what should it be?
FORM: Get into a half lunge, and simulate running as you hold weights and move your arms in a slightly exaggerated fashion, alternating up to your shoulder and then extending your arm down.
REPS: Do 10 per arm with the heaviest weight that you can use while keeping good form. Switch your legs and do another 10. That’s 1 set. Do 2–4 sets with little to no rest in between.
WHY: Siik explains that as runners tire, we often let our arms sway across our bodies (in part because of reduced upper-body and arm strength), and this is bad for the pelvis and back. “You’ll decrease the risk of injury, and increase speed just by having that more powerful arm drive.”
WHEN: Perform this exercise twice a week—on speed workout days if you have them. Siik says your arm drive is most important when you’re going fast, so you’ll be training your body to use the same muscles even when they are tired. This will make them stronger overall, and then you can recover better on days that don’t have this focus.
If I add a second strength workout, what should I do?
FORM: Start in a basic plank position on your elbows and think about flattening your butt and pulling in your pelvis, so you don’t arch your back. Next, move to a side plank by rotating your bottom arm to the side, reaching your top arm to the ceiling, and stacking or scissoring your feet. Switch sides.
REPS: Work your way from 20 seconds to 1 minute in each position: plank, side plank on one side and then the other. That’s 1 set. Do 2–4 sets with little to no rest in between.
WHY: A strong core is essential for better performance and efficiency. “The core is at the center of the counterbalancing forces between an opposite arm and leg, and if it is weak, one can have excess rotation in the hips, which can lead to many injuries,” Siik says.
WHEN: Do this twice a week on slower running days.
And if I want a third?
Back Flies & Pushups
FORM: With the weights from the running curls, stand with your chest slightly forward and a slight bend in your elbows. Think about bringing your shoulder blades together as you pull the weights back toward your shoulders. Then move to the floor to do pushups.
REPS: Do 15 back flies and then 15 pushups (if you can’t do them all on your feet, try 5 and then move to your knees for the next 10). Do 4 sets of the two exercises with little to no rest in between.
WHY: Many runners have trouble with hunching over as they run—especially when they are tired. Siik explains that these exercises “help to keep you upright, with shoulders back and chest slightly forward, better breathing and less stress for your spine in the long run.”
WHEN: Do this once a week on a slower running day.