Strength training plays a key role in your development as a runner, helping to build muscle so that your body can handle the repetitive stress of all that pavement pounding. And the stronger you are, the faster you’ll go. "Running is all about creating force," explains Tamara Pridgett, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified trainer and All-American sprinter, who also recommends sneaking in some core work during your training. "The more force you can generate, when done with proper technique, the faster you’ll run—and to improve the max force we apply to the ground, one must lift weights." Here, her favorite run-strong moves.
1. Barbell Squat
These help build strength in your legs and contribute to overall power when running. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and a loaded barbell or a heavy body bar on your back just below your neck (A). Push hips back to lower down into a squat, keeping chest up (B). Drive heels into ground to rise back up to standing. Do 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.
2. Box jump
It increases power, which in turn improves your speed. Stand facing box, about 6 to 12 inches away. Bend knees, lowering down into a quarter squat, and swing arms back behind you; keep natural bend in elbows (A). As you drive arms forward, push through feet to jump up onto box, landing softly (B). Stand up, squeezing glutes to come to full hip extension (C). Step back down to start. Do 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.
3. Dumbbell Power Clean
This is a holy grail exercise that focuses on both strength and power. Start in a squat with a dumbbell in right hand, arm hanging in front of body, back flat, and core tight (A). Pull right arm up, leading with elbow as the dumbbell scales the body, to come to standing (B). Flip wrist so palm is facing head as you drop back into a squat (C). Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.
4. Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift
The muscles used in a deadlift—glutes, core, hamstrings, quadriceps, trapezius—are the same ones used when running. Plus, this lift helps generate power and force, which is crucial. Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebells on outsides of both feet. Squat down to grip kettlebells (A). Maintaining a neutral spine, stand up, squeezing glutes at the top (B). Slowly and with control, lower back down to start. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
5. Walking Lunge
Lunges simulate ideal running mechanics; if you can master proper form during this exercise, your running form will also improve. Start standing; drive right knee up to 90 degrees, keeping body long and in a straight line, with foot flexed (A). Step forward with right foot, lowering down into a lunge with each leg as close to 90 degrees as possible (B). Squeeze glutes as you step up and past the right leg with the left foot, lowering down into a lunge on the left side (C). Do 3 or 4 sets for 50 meters. Walk back to start for rest, and repeat.
6. Knee Tuck Jump
This is a great foundation to improve speed and ground reaction; the longer you’re on the ground, the slower you run. Start standing; lower hips, swing arms back (A), and jump up, driving knees up as high as possible without hunching over (B). As soon as feet touch the ground, drive knees back up. Beginner? Try 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps. If you are intermediate or advanced, go for 3 or 4 sets of 30 reps.