Strength training is essential for runners, and you don’t have to be at a gym for hours to benefit.
The simple solution is resistance bands. These large elastic bands come in a variety of designs and resistances. They are relatively cheap and highly versatile. With a single band you can do a full-body strength session.
Traveling for work or holidays? No problem! The bands take up very little space in your luggage, and you can use them in your hotel room.
This strength workout accessory is unique, as the amount of resistance increases the further you move through the motion of the exercise.
By contrast, when you push a dumbbell or barbell, the amount of resistance is at its greatest at the start of the exercise and the resistance gets easier as you progress through the motion.
Get the right gear
So what band do you need? There are two main types of resistance band:
- Resistance tubes
- Flat bands
Both types come in a variety of resistance levels. I prefer the flat bands as they are more versatile with the number of exercises you can do with them. Resistance tubes also seem to break a lot more easily!
The principles of strength training remain the same whether you are using standard weights or bands. You need enough resistance to overload the muscle as this is the only way to get stronger.
Select a band that gives you enough resistance to complete eight to 12 reps of the exercise while allowing you to complete the full motion. Once you have adapted to the resistance of that band then you can move to the next one up.
What exercises should you be doing as a runner? Core and stability are the buzzwords. Nothing wrong in concept as these exercises help keep a strong posture, prevent injury, and allow the rest of the muscular system to function optimally. However, don’t forget the rest of the body!
Select exercises that make use of multiple joints. This is more functional and saves you time by training multiple muscle groups in a single exercise, allowing you to get back to the trails.
For each strength session that you do make sure that you include at least one of the following:
- Core and stability exercise
- Front of leg exercise
- Back of leg exercise
- Push exercise
- Pull exercise
- Rotation exercise
Here are six resistance band exercises, demonstrated by Roxanne Zone and Ingrid Wood.
Mini band medium resistance
10 repetitions per leg
This exercise is great for putting your hips in their neutral position and strengthening hip flexors.
Start by lying fl at on your back with your legs straight, mini band around your toes. Contract your abdominals by slightly pulling your belly button towards your spine. Maintain abdominal contraction while pulling one knee towards your chest. Slowly return to start position.
Step up to shoulder press
Light flat band
10 repetitions per leg
This multi-joint exercise combines leg and shoulder exercises.
Start with one foot on a bench and the band under the foot. Hold the other side of the band with both hands at shoulder height. Drive through the glute of the leg that is on the bench to stand up on the bench. As you are standing up, push both hands towards the roof. Slowly step down to the starting position.
Medium to heavy flat band
Another multi-jointed exercise that targets the glutes, hamstring, and lower back.
Stand on the middle of the band with your hands in the loop on either side. Pull your shoulder blades down your back and lean forward from your hips. Once your chest is parallel with the floor push your hips forward and stand back up to the starting position.
Mini band medium resistance
10 steps each side
This exercise targets the glute medius which is a major knee stabiliser.
Start with the mini band around your ankles and your feet just wider than shoulder width. Sink into a quarter squat position. Begin by moving the right leg to the right and your left leg following. Repeat for 10 reps and then return using the left leg.
Plank with banded row
Medium flat band
10 repetitions each side
Challenge your core strength while adding in a row.
Loop a flat band around a pole and get into a plank position with a neutral spine, elbows below your shoulders, and feet hip-width apart. With one hand, pull the band into your chest, then return to the start, and swop hands.
Banded trunk rotations
Light to medium flat band
10 reps each side
This exercise focuses on the core muscles involved in rotation of the trunk. It’s an important movement for runners in generating more torque, as well as stabilisation of the pelvis.
Loop a flat band around a pole at chest height. Hold the band with both hands, shoulder width apart. Turn from your waist so that your head and arms move with your shoulder. Slowly return to the start.
Doing the Circuit
Do one set of these exercises for the required reps. Then repeat the circuit for another two sets.
- Tempo – take two seconds to do the effort part of the exercise and another two seconds to return to the start
- Exhale during the effort phase
- Inhale on the return phase
- Focus on form
Resist the temptation to skip your strength training!
This article was published in TRAIL 34.
Brendan McBirnie is a strength and endurance coach for runners. He has 18 years of experience and an Honours in Sport Science.