The idea of strength training to improve running muscles may seem counterproductive, but stretching seems like a no-brainer. However, including both strength training and stretching plans with your 5K training can be beneficial for increasing speed, distance and protecting the body from injury. Running specific strength training, abdominal exercises and stretching plans should be the focus alongside the actual running training.
Strength Training for Lower Body
It’s important to warm up the muscles for 10 minutes before strength training. With lower body strength training focus on dynamic movements that develop your running motion. The high bench step up develops the hamstrings and the glutes. To perform this exercise you’ll need a high bench that is 8 to 12 inches tall. You can perform this with or without free weights. Aim for 15 reps for this exercise. The one leg squat strongly develops the quadriceps and the glutes, which is a complimentary exercise to the hamstrings. Perform 15 reps for each leg. To increase your coordination and strength also include one leg hops in place for your lower body strength training. This exercise engages the foot, ankle shin, calf, thigh and hip. You should perform 25 to 30 quick hops on each foot for this exercise.
Strength Training for Upper Body
Strength training shouldn’t just focus on the lower body, but also the upper body. Good posture, shoulder and arm strength are great for runners speed and agility. Hal Higdon suggests incorporating push-ups, pull-ups and free weight exercises into your strength training program. If you are worried about bulking up, perform free weight exercises with a low weight and a high number of reps. Over head presses, biceps curls and triceps extensions can be performed with more reps and lower weight and still increase arm strength.
Including abdominal exercises in your strength training is also essential for 5K training. Not only is it important for posture, but strengthening the abdominal muscles will improve your running power, strength and economy. Include abdominal crunches, v-crunches, exercise abdominal crunches, oblique crunches and raised leg crunches into your abdominal exercises. Perform 10 to 15 reps of each abdominal exercise and two to three sets.
It’s important to stretch all major muscle groups when training for a 5K. Include calf stretches, quadriceps stretches, hamstring stretches, groin stretches, lower back and outer thigh stretches, inner thigh stretches and arm stretches in your stretching plans. The better you stretch, the less your muscles will hurt the next day and the day after.
Strength training should be done two to three days per week. Make sure to give your body 24 to 48 hours rest between strength training sessions. Stretching should be performed after you finish runs and before and after strength training sessions. Be sure to stretch for at least five minutes within 15 minutes after every run. During strength training sessions warm up then stretch all major muscle groups for five to 10 minutes before performing exercises and stretch for five minutes after your strength training routine.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.