By Simon Gould
Strength training is an important part of overall health and fitness. Even the CDC recommends you do 2 or more days of strengthening exercises every week. That’s part of the physical activity they say all adults need for important health benefits. This is in addition to the 75 minutes of running they recommend you do per week.
Many runners and others who do cardiovascular exercise often neglect strength training and don’t make it part of their routine. It has so many benefits. It helps you maintain weight by increasing the calories burned when you do normal activities. Also, it helps preserve bone health and muscle mass which is vital as you get older. For runners, it helps strengthen the support muscles that assist you as you run by preventing injuries.
How often should I do strength exercises?
The CDC advises twice or more per week. We understand this if you do your lower body on one day and upper body the next. But we feel it’s best to get it done all on one day. For runners the run is more important and most days will be spent on this. Devoting one day to strength training makes more sense.
We recommend you do both lower body and upper body at the same time on one day. The reason you would do the upper body as well, as part of your routine, is because you don’t want strong legs and a skinny upper body. Even though the lower body exercises are more beneficial to runners. Your core also gets strengthened with upper body training.
What equipment do I need?
If you’re using a treadmill then you may have a barbell and dumbbells as well with weights. If not you can do exercises using your body weight. Otherwise if you use the treadmill in a gym then you will likely have weights and resistance machines there. This is perfect for what you require and gives you a lot of choice as to which equipment to use.
If you have to purchase a bar and weights which is all you need then Amazon has a great selection* and the delivery charge is low when you consider how heavy the items are. You don’t need dumbbells just the long bar and weights will do. This equipment will last a very long time and represent a great investment in your overall health.
How many sets and repetitions?
We’ve advised to do all your strength training in one day and the whole body. For this reason you don’t want to exhaust yourself on the day you do it and not be too sore they day after. We suggest doing one set per body part. Do 8 repetitions until you can’t lift any further. If you can do more than 8 then increase the weight until you can do no more than 8.
Every week you do the exercises you will find that you’re getting stronger. Go for a slightly higher weight to get the 8 reps or less to failure. After many weeks you will find you can’t lift anymore weight for a given exercise. This is called the plateaux and is perfectly normal. Just keep doing the exercises with your highest weight to maintain strength and muscle mass.
Lower body exercises
These are the lower body exercises. These can be done on a machine, with free weights or with your body weight. There are only 4 of them and as we’re doing just one set it won’t take long to get them done. Take care with the weight and always move slowly as to get the most from the exercise and not injure yourself. Here they are:
- Leg extension
- Leg curl
- Calf raises
You pick up the barbell off the floor with your knees bent and raise the bar to your waist keeping the arms straight. The deadlift is an all over exercise really in that it does some of your upper body too. It exercises your butt (gluteus maximus), upper front legs (quadriceps), inner thigh (adductor magnus), upper back of legs (hamstrings), lower back (erector spinae) and the upper neck (trapezius upper).
The start position is your knees bent and relaxed. You then raise the bar with your legs so that they become straight as the picture shows. This exercises the upper front legs (quadriceps).
Start by lying down with the bar under the bottom of the leg and raise it towards your butt as shown in the picture. This exercises the upper back legs (hamstrings).
You can do with on a machine in a gym or with free weights as in the picture. With feet flat go onto tip toe and back down again. This exercises the lower back legs, calves (gastrocnemius).
Upper body exercises
There are more of the upper body exercises. Even though this is for runners we still advise you strength train your upper body. This gives balance to your shape and your core always needs a workout because everything is used by the mid section. As always move the weight slowly, have someone who can “spot” you or keep an eye out as you’re doing the exercises and take care. There are 6 exercises, they are:
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
- Back row
- Tricep extension
- Bicep curl
- Abdominal crunch
This one you need someone to watch over you while you lift. Take the bar from your chest and raise it straight upwards. This exercises the chest muscles (pectoralis major) and the back of the arms (triceps).
The start position is as in the picture and then raise the weights above your head. A spotter is needed and this exercises the shoulder (deltoids) and the back of the arms (triceps).
There are many ways to do a row. You can do it seated on a machine. With a dumbbell as in the picture or with a barbell. Keep moving the weight slowly down and then up. This exercise works the back (trapezius) and the front of the arms (biceps).
There are many ways to work the triceps and you’ll find the one that’s best for you. The one we’ve shown in the picture is an extension. Hold the weight behind the neck and raise it upward. You should feel this on the back of the upper arms (triceps).
This is the classic exercise everyone recognizes and it exercises the part that body builders like to flex. Start with the weight down with your arms and lift up using the front of your arms. It works out the front of the upper arms (biceps).
Start lying flat down with your hands behind your neck. Squeeze up as in the photo. Don’t push with your hands and don’t go too high. Try for 20 reps and feel the squeeze in your abdominal muscles (rectus abdominas).
That may seem a lot but doing only 1 set for each exercise won’t take you long. It should take you 45 minutes to 1 hour. There are many ways to do each exercise shown and the important thing is to stay safe and concentrate on moving the weight slowly to fully work the muscles. A gym is the best place to do these and they usually have treadmills too so it may be worth joining one. Another thing you could add to your routine is adding weights while running on your treadmill.
The benefits of doing these exercises will be a toning of your muscles and physique. Women don’t need to be concerned about having too much muscle as your body doesn’t produce testosterone so your physique won’t get too large. By doing this strength training you will be doing exactly what the CDC says and you’ll get many health benefits and you’ll feel better for it.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.