And here's the thing: When you run faster without bad knees or sore ankles, you can torch more calories each time you hit the pavement.
These seven strength moves help you build strong legs, so you can work harder out on the road. (Looking for your next challenge? Sign up for the RUN10FEED 10 10-K!)
Squats do more than make you look amazing in those little running shorts. They're incredibly functional, says Hamilton. That’s because they help you master running’s two main moves: thrusting the hips forward and forcefully straightening the knees. Get those two things down and you will be a faster runner.
And since there are so many variations of squats out there (check out these 20 squat variations to switch up the booty boredom), you can easily tailor the move you pick by your strength level and the equipment you have. Bodyweight and goblet squats are great for beginners, while more experienced squatters can get under a barbell or even try single-leg squats.
How to: Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed out (A). Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can while keeping your chest up and heels on the floor (B). Pause, then slowly push yourself back to the starting position.
2. SIDE PLANK WITH KEGEL HOLDS
“I think a lot of people overlook the pelvic floor when performing planks,” says Hamilton. And the best way to activate that part of your core is with Kegels. Why would you want to? Well, besides helping you build the strongest, most solid core possible, Kegels can prevent less-than-pleasant issues among female runners, like urine leakage and bladder and uterine prolapse. So, yeah, you’ll want to do some Kegels during your planks. The only catch: Your planks will likely feel harder, and you might not be able to hold them as long as you usually do, she says.
How to: Lie on your side, with your forearm under your shoulder and your hips resting on the floor. Perform a Kegel (pretend you’re trying to stop peeing mid-stream) and then lift your hips so that you are in a side plank. Your body should form a straight line from head to feet. Keep your core squeezed tight and don’t let go of the Kegel until you return to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
3. FORWARD LUNGE
Lunges are super similar to running, but because they require a lot more work with every “stride,” they tap your fast-twitch muscle fibers. And that's great since these are often underdeveloped in runners and can help you sprint at the end of a long run, says Hamilton. Plus, lunges hone in on your balance, stability, and coordination. (Get more crazy-effective strength moves to shape up this summer from Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.)
Forward lunges are a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to mix up your variations. (Try these 20 lunge variations to kick leg day up a notch.) “Forward, walking, and reverse lunges all look similar, but work things slightly differently, so it’s best to include all of them.”
How to: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides (A). Take an exaggerated step forward with one leg. Lower your body until both of your legs form 90-degree angles, and your knees are directly over your ankles (B). Push through the base of your front foot to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.
In addition to your lower body, running works your back, rear shoulders, biceps, and even your abs like woah.
Pullups engage all of those muscles at once and train them to work together, as they do every time you swing those arms, says Hamilton. What’s more, a strong back helps you keep perfect posture during your run, which helps you run faster.
How to: Stand in front of an assisted pullup machine (or pullup bar, if you happen to be crazy strong) and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Then, kneel on the assisting platform or bar (A). Keeping your core tight, pull your shoulder blades together so that you rise up. When the bar reaches your collarbones, slowly reverse the movement to return to start (B).
They might not look like much, but this little move is critical to runners. It works the glute medius (your side butt), which is the key to stabilizing the hips and knees to shore up lingering IT Band issues.
Try performing them with no gear, and then move on to looping a resistance band around your knees for an added challenge, says Hamilton. If they still feel easy, make sure that your hips stay stacked and stationary throughout the movement, she says.
How to: Lie on one side with your legs stacked on top of each other, heels together. Bend your hips and knees to 45 degrees so that your knees are out in front of you (A). Keeping your hips stationary, raise your top knee as high as you can while keeping your heels together (B). Pause, then slowly lower your knee to return to the starting position. Perform all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
6. DUMBBELL DEADLIFT
“If your hips aren’t strong, you’re not strong,” says Hamilton. Your hips, which include your glutes, upper hamstrings, and lower core and back, are every runner’s “powerhouse muscles.” These determine the speed and strength of your stride.
Deadlifts help protect you from super-common lower-body injuries by stabilizing the center of your body. “Strong hips are your knees' best friends,” she says.
How to: Stand in front two dumbbells with your feet hip-width apart (A). Push your hips back and bend your knees to grab the weight, keeping your back neutral. Push through your feet, and simultaneously thrust your hips forward and straighten your knees (B). Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
For runners, it’s important that any strength move—especially upper body exercises—work several muscle groups at once. After all, you don’t want to spend hours performing isolation moves when you could be out running.
That’s why pushups are so great for those who hit the road. They work your chest, triceps, and fronts of your shoulders at the same time. Plus, they engage your core, which helps you run tall while transferring power between your upper and lower body.
How to: Get on the floor in a high plank position (A). With your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to ankles, slowly lower your body until your chest is a few inches above the floor (B). Immediately push through your hands to return to start.