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Improve Your Marathon Performance At The Gym With These Exercises

Wait, I'm supposed to do more than just running?" is a question I'm often asked by clients wanting to improve their running performance.

That is correct! Running should be supplemented with strength training. Strengthening your muscles and connective tissue will help prevent injuries, it improves power and proprioceptive awareness (your body mind connection) and additionally your coordination and thus stride efficiency and your overall running economy. 

As some of you might have already suspected, the training program looks different than that of your average gym rat standing in the corner grunting whilst curling a way too heavy barbell to add mass to their bulging biceps. A runner's focus should be on key muscles that will help keep him or her balanced and moving forward.

See the following 9 exercises (3 each for upper body, lower body, core) with regressions and progressions.

Upper body

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1. Push ups - works chest, triceps and core.

Start in high plank position with shoulders on top of wrists, brace your core (don't let the hips dip or lift) so body forms a straight line. Bend at elbows to lower chest to floor then press back up to return to starting position. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

Regression: on your knees

Progression: add a weighted plate on back

Advanced: bench press 

2. Bent over rows - works back, biceps and core.

Start standing with your knees slightly bend, two dumbbells in hands, palms facing facing each other. Hinge forward at the hips and let the arms hang at a slight angle (forward) to floor. Bend 1 elbow (keep it close to your body) to pull weight up, pinch your shoulder blades together. Make sure to keep your shoulder depressed (pushed downward) and don't rotate in your upper body. Return to starting position then repeat on the other side. This counts as 1 rep. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

Regression: use your own body weight

Progression: use heavier dumbbells

Advanced: pull ups

3. Rotational shoulder press - works shoulders, triceps and core.

Stand holding a pair of dumbbells racked at your shoulders, with palms facing each other, knees slightly bend, core braced and glutes squeezed. Press right dumbbell overhead as you rotate from the hips to your left. Lower the dumbbell as you rotate back to starting position, then do the same on the right side. That's one repetition. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps.

Regression: Do the movement without the rotations

Progression: Heavier weights

Advanced: Standing military press

Lower body 

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Forward lunges - works legs, quad and glute muscles.

Stand tall holding dumbbells in each hand at sides. Take a step forward with right leg and lower body until right thigh is parallel to floor and right shin perpendicular (knee on top of ankle). Press into right heel to drive back up to starting position. Continue on the same leg for 12 to 15 reps, then repeat on opposite leg. That’s one set. Complete 3 sets.

Regression: bodyweight only.

Progression: heavier weights / add a 2 -3 second hold.

Single leg glute bridges - works glutes and core.

Lie face up on mat with knees bent and feet as close as possible to your glutes, core braced. Extend right leg straight up. Press into left heel to lift hips off mat as high as possible whilst keeping your core tightened. Hold for 2 seconds before slowly lowering back down. Continue for 15 reps, then repeat on opposite leg. That’s one set. Complete 3 sets.

Regression: perform with both feet on the ground.

Progression: add a weighted plate to hips, hold in place with hands.

Advanced: shoulder elevated barbell hip thrust.

Deadlift - works hamstrings, glutes, back and core.

Stand with knees slightly bent and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold dumbbells and hinge at hips so they hang in front of shins, palms facing you. Brace core and lift weights by squeezing glutes, thrusting hips forward, and pulling torso back and up. Focus on just hinging at the hips, not squatting. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

Regression: lighter weight.

Progression: heavier dumbbells or a weighted barbell.

Core

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Plank - works core.

Place forearms flat on ground, elbows directly under shoulders. Engage core by pulling the hip towards the rip-cage, additionally squeeze your glutes.. Keep neck and spine neutral. Head should be in line with back; don’t let hips dip or lift. Hold as long as you can without neglecting proper set up. Repeat for 3 sets.

Regression: plank in push up position

Progression: add a weighted plate on your back

Advanced: added movement i.e. mountain climbers

Russian twist - works obliques and straight abdominals.

Start seated with knees bent 90 degrees, heels off floor, and hands clasped in front of chest. Engage abs and rotate upper body to the. Keep your back tall and rotate from your hips. Return to starting position and repeat on left side. That’s 1 repetition. Complete 15 to 20 reps.

Regression: keep heels on floor

Progression: hold a weight such as dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball in front of you

Back extensions - works lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders.

Lie facedown on a stability ball (touching point in front of hips) with feet spread wide for balance. Elbows should be bent with hands placed lightly behind ears. Squeeze glutes and lift torso up until your body forms a straight line. Hold for 2 seconds. Release back down to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform for 12 - 15 reps.

Regression: Superman (lay facedown on mat, raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground)

Progression: hold weight i.e a light set of dumbbells.

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