Whether you're training for your first 3-miler or seasoned at toeing the start line, incorporating these strength moves into your training will help you have a faster and safer run.

February 05, 2014

As is the case with training for all distances from 800 meters to 100K, optimal 5K training programs incorporate strength and power training to optimize performance. Although strength training is often excluded from many runners' training programs or treated as occasional cross-training to be completed on non-running days, it is the backbone of great endurance training. The following exercises, as well as additional exercises to develop strength and endurance, can be found in Running Science.

1. Side Sit-Up

Lie on one side with both legs extended and raised slightly off the floor. The side of the upper torso in contact with the floor should lie relaxed on the floor. Place the hand of the bottom arm on the floor to the front so that the arm is perpendicular to the body. Place the hand of the top arm lightly on the back of the head. (Do not pull on the head or neck during the exercise.)

Slowly raise the torso, contracting the abdominal muscles on the top side of the trunk and raising the legs at the same time. Slowly lower the upper torso and the legs back to the starting position on the floor to complete one rep. Don't let the upper body fall to the floor in an uncontrolled manner. Complete 15 reps on one side and then 15 on the other.

More: 8 Best Core-Strengthening Exercises for Runners

2. High Lunge

Stand on a six-inch platform or step so that the forward, lunging foot will undergo an exaggerated downward acceleration. Start with erect posture and feet directly under the shoulders; step down and forward with one foot. After the forward foot makes contact with the ground, move into a squat position so that the thigh of the forward leg becomes almost parallel with the ground. The upper body may incline forward slightly as this happens. Emphasize action of the gluteal muscles and hamstrings to reverse the squat and return the forward leg onto the platform, under the trunk. Complete one rep by returning to the start position.

More: Hip Strengthening and Mobility Exercises for Runners

3. Low-Back Extension with a Twist

Lie on the stomach with arms by the sides, hands extended toward feet, and palms touching the floor. Contract the back muscles to lift and twist the upper body to one side during the first rep. Return to the starting position and then lift and twist the torso to the other side during the second rep. Continue alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions. Be sure to fully untwist the upper body each time the trunk moves back toward the ground so that the stomach and chest, not the sides, touch the ground. Perform these movements rhythmically and smoothly while maintaining good control.

More: 5 Core Exercises That Increase Stability and Running Efficiency

4. Sprint Hop

Hop as quickly as possible for 20 meters, or 66 feet, on one foot, emphasizing extremely quick contact with the ground and forceful forward explosions each time the foot hits the ground. Without stopping or resting, hop 20 more meters on the other foot. Without interruption, repeat the exercise on the first foot and then the other foot. Recover by doing one minute of light jogging. Repeat this hopping and recovery sequence five more times.

A key progression with sprint hopping is to begin performing some of the reps on a hill. Start with a gently sloping incline of about three percent and gradually work up to a 10 percent incline, if possible, and hop both uphill and downhill. Maintain good form and balance at all times and avoid the temptation to look down at the hopping foot.

More: 7 Best Plyometric Exercises to Improve Running Economy

5. Two-Leg Hurdle Hop

Position eight hurdles in a row, 45 inches apart, with the height of each hurdle set at 23 inches. Starting from one end, jump over each hurdle, landing and taking off on two legs until all eight hurdles have been cleared. Maintain continuous movement. Minimize ground-contact time with each landing, and try to be as explosive as possible. Once you have cleared the eighth hurdle, jog back to the beginning point and repeat four more times for five reps in all. Avoid taking little hops between hurdles and making more than one contact between hurdles. This exercise may also be performed on one leg at a time as a progression.

Running Science is a one-of-a-kind resource that offers the most advanced and in-depth coverage on running. In addition to providing detailed information on strength-training exercises for runners, it includes a wealth of insights distilled from great sport and exercise scientists, coaches and runners. The easily comprehended repository of running research offers an array of the most credible and widely used training principles and programs, and is a celebration of the latest science-based know-how of running. It is available in bookstores everywhere or online at HumanKinetics.com.

More: How Do I Run a Faster 5K?

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