Today's topic in the Runner's Lounge is: If you could spend 6 1/2 minutes each day building your strength to benefit your running, what would you do? What are some of the most effective strength training exercises you do to help you run faster, longer or more comfortably?
I would say it's all about the squat, baby (for me anyway). Personally, I like the lateral squat machine (meaning you're sitting upright, pushing your feet on a flat plate/platform straight out in front of you). The reason the squat is so great is that it engages so many major muscles to work together that are vital for strong running legs.
Here's my routine:
1)Using both feet, do one set of 12 at a moderate-high weight (one that makes it difficult to finish that last rep) with a small medicine ball in between your knees. The medicine ball addition was a trick my physical therapist showed me. It requires the inner and outer muscles of your legs to be firing at the same time because you're not only pushing away from yourself, but also inward to keep that ball from falling.
2)Then, I alternate doing a set of one legged squats (at a lower weight of course) on the same machine, on each leg, without the med ball. This forces the glute, hip, quad, hamstring and knee to function together without relying on the other leg (in case one of your legs is a bit stronger than the other).
I do #1 and #2 three times total so it goes like this:
double leg squats with ball (12, right leg squats (12), left leg squats (12)
double, right, left
double, right, left
*If you need a break in between sets, get up and grab a drink of water, stretch out those legs, or super set by doing some bicep curls with dumbbells.
The important thing here is that you are doing some kind of strength training. I've been weight lifting regularly since 8th grade so I'm very comfortable in a gym, but I know that it can be intimidating to lift around a lot of beefy, obnoxious guys. If you need some moral support, hire a trainer or grab a girlfriend and hit the weight room. Just be sure you know what you're doing so you don't make a fool of yourself or more importantly, injure yourself.