Runners should strength train. We all know that. But finding the time to do so in an already busy schedule can seem impossible.
Fortunately, a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests you needn’t spend hours and hours ‘squeezing the steel’ in the gym.
In the study, one set (8-12 reps to failure, 3 x week for 8 weeks) increased max strength and muscular endurance just as much as three or five sets.
The set involved seven different exercises – bench press, military press, lat pulldown, seated cable row, back squat, leg press and unilateral leg extension – and took 13 minutes to complete.
At the end of the eight weeks, participants who only completed one set enjoyed just as big an increase in their strength and muscular endurance as those who’d been doing up to five times as many sets.
In terms of time, that’s the difference between spending 39 minutes a week at the gym and 3 hours 15 minutes.
Here’s a breakdown of the seven exercises so you can try the strength-training circuit for yourself. No more excuses…
Note: When doing these exercises, choose a weight that means you can do no more than 12 reps before failure. Be sure to be fully warmed up and, if you’re new to strength training, ensure you seek expert supervision before tackling this set.
1. Lie on a weights bench, flat on your back, feet planted firmly on the floor
2. Grip the bar with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart.
3. Slowly, lower the bar down to your chest as you breathe in.
4. Drive the bar upwards as you breathe out, focusing on a spot on the ceiling rather than the bar.
1. To begin with, do this move in the squat rack so you don’t have to lift the bar off the floor into the start position.
2. Grab the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing outwards, with the bar level with the upper part of your chest.
3. Bend your knees into a quarter squat and drive up with your legs to take the bar off the rack support.
4. With your feet together, squeeze your glutes and core – and keep them tensed throughout.
5. Make sure your elbows are pointing forwards rather than out to the side. Breathe in, tense your glutes and drive the bar straight up, breathing out as you do so.
6. When your arms are fully extended, move your head forwards slightly so that your biceps align closely with your ears. Don’t arch your back.
7. Slowly, lower the bar down to chin level, moving your head back slightly so you don’t hit your forehead with the bar.
If you can do 8-12 pull-ups, do this instead. If not, head for the lat pulldown machine.
1. First, ensure the seat pad fits snugly on your thighs. This will ensure you minimise any unwanted movement.
2. Grab the bar with a wide grip. Look forward and keep your torso upright.
3. Pull the bar down in front of you to your upper chest. Resist the temptation to lean back to aid the movement.
4. In a controlled motion, return to the start position.
Seated cable row
The seated cable row is performed on a weighted horizontal cable machine with a bench and foot plates.
1. Sit on the platform, with your feet on the foot plates and your knees slightly bent. Grip the cable handle.
2. Keeping your back straight and your abdominals braced, pull the handle back to your lower abdomen. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
3. Return the handle to the full-stretch position, remembering to keep your back straight throughout.
1. Take the weights bar off the rack, with it resting on the back of your shoulders.
2. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, feet facing slightly outwards.
3. Bend your knees and sit back until your hip crease is lower than your knee.
4. Look at a spot about two metres ahead of you on the floor.
5. Keeping your weight on your heels, drive back up to the starting position.
Performed on a leg-press machine, which you can find in the majority of gyms.
1. Place your feet on the pad, shoulder-width apart, with toes facing slightly outward.
2. Straighten your legs and release the leg-press handle, keeping your lower-back firmly against the seat.
3. Without bouncing your knees of your chest, push the weight upwards. Don’t fully lock out your knees. Keep the tension in your quads.
Unilateral leg extension
Performed on a leg-extension machine, available in the majority of gyms.
1. Seat yourself on the machine. The pad should be against the lower part of your shine, but not in contact with the ankle.
2.Adjust the seat so that the pivot is in line with your knee. Then fully extend your leg, pausing briefly at the top of the motion.
3. Return slowly to the start position, making sure you don’t let the weight drop. Do 8-12 reps, then swap legs.