5 strength-building home workouts

You know that adding some weight training to your programme will help your running by making you more stable and powerful, but what if you don’t fancy joining a gym? Here’s the answer: stay at home and use your own body weight for all-round strength building.

It’s important that you keep each exercise slow and controlled, and concentrate on technique to reduce your chances of injury. Take nice deep breaths, and exhale during the active part of the exercise. And keep your joints ‘soft’ – don’t lock them out.

For all of the exercises, start with one set of up to 10 repetitions, with 30 seconds recovery between sets, and gradually work up to three sets of 20 reps.

Press-ups

This old favourite is great for developing strong chest muscles, but a lot of people claim that they simply can’t do press-ups. Here’s an easier version. Place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and rest on your knees. Simply lower your upper torso slowly towards the ground. Don’t look up; keep your nose pointing downwards at all times. Then straighten your arms to push yourself back up. That’s a press-up. To make your press-up harder, extend your legs to shift your weight up onto your toes and move your hands either further apart (emphasising the chest) or closer together (emphasising the triceps).

Dips

You don’t need parallel bars or an expensive machine to work your triceps: A couple of stable chairs will do. Place one with its back against a wall, and the other opposite it at a comfortable distance. Grip the sides or front of the chair by the wall with your hands, and rest your feet on the other one. Lower yourself in between the chairs until your elbows are at 90 degrees, then push up until your arms are straight, but don’t lock your elbows. Keep the movement slow and steady and don’t bounce up and down.

Sit-ups

You don’t actually have to sit all the way up to perform the perfect sit-up. Instead, slow, concentrated movements are called for. Lying on your back with your feet on the floor, bend your knees to 90 degrees. Keep your back flat to the floor and cross your hands across your chest. Keep your chin three or four inches away from your chest. Then simply tense your stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the ground. Press your lower back into the ground as you lift up and breath out. Take a big deep breath on the way down and relax your shoulders and neck after each repetition.

Upright row

You need some sort of weight for this, but if you don’t have a set of barbells, don’t worry. A big (full) bottle of squash with a handle will do. Stand with your back straight and your knees slightly bent, your arms hanging in front of you and your ‘weight’ held with both hands. Raise the weight straight up along the mid-line of your body to just below your chin, moving your elbows out on the upward movement. This exercise works the trapezius muscle in both the upper back and shoulder.

Squats

An all-round work-out for runners wouldn’t be complete without some leg strengthening, and no-weight squats are surprisingly effective. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight and your chin up, then bend your knees to around 90 degrees, but no more, and then return to the starting position. Breathe in on the way down and out on the way up. You can increase your leg work-out by speeding up your repetitions or by pausing in the 90-degree position for a count of 5-10 seconds before extending your legs again.