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The Dirty Seven: 7 Great Exercises to Help You Run Faster

I was doing a little research on the best way to strengthen the muscles in order to run faster. There were a lot of great articles and videos on this topic, and a wide variety of opinions. In this article I am going to present you with my top favorites and back each one with content from Ironman University’s Exercise Science section. These exercises are what I feel would be benefit the runner as part of a regular strength training program.

The run gait includes 2 phases. Each of these phases requires different muscles groups to effectively move the runner forward. There is some science behind each one, so read carefully!

1.The Stance Phase:

Initial Contact/Loading Response- This is when the foot comes in contact with the ground and the support limb begins to accept weight. (hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, tibialis anterior, plantar flexors, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus)

Mid Stance- Upper trunk moves over support limb. (gastrocnemius, soleus, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus, peroneus longus and peroneus brevis, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and medius)

Terminal Stance- Begins as the heel comes off the ground with the trunk moving ahead of the foot. (plantar flexors, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, hip adductors)

2. The Swing phase:

Initial swing- The initial swing phase begins with the runner lifting the foot from the ground and ends when the swing leg is even with the stance leg.(hamstrings, anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, iliopsoas, hip adductors, sartorius, rectus femoris)

Mid swing-The swing leg is even with the opposing stance leg and continues to move the lower leg forward until the tibia is vertical to the ground. (hamstrings, anterior tibialis, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, iliopsoas, sartorius, rectus femoris)

Terminal swing-During terminal swing, the swing limb decelerates and prepares to strike the ground at initial contact. (gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, anterior tibialis)

The Trunk and Posture muscles involved in running include:

Quadratus lumborum, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, lumbar paraspinals, rectus abdominals, transvers abdominals, internal obliques and external obliques, deltoids, rhomboids, triceps, trapezius, biceps brachii, pectoralis major, neck flexors, sternocleidomastoids, scalene, levator scapulae, cervical paraspinals

With all of the above in mind, here are 7 strength exercises targeting the above muscle groups which will help you improve your run!

1.Jump Squats (TRX)

I like doing these because not only do they strengthen the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but the plyometric motion raises the HR increasing cardiovascular fitness.

2.Barbell Thrusts

These will strengthen the hip flexor group to include iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and sartorius. Contraction of these muscles initiates forward flexion of the hips.

3.Elbow Lifts

During the swing phase the elbows are flexed at 90 degrees by isometric contraction of biceps brachii; This loaded movement mimics arm swing with an additional load to increase muscle strength and endurance.

4.Bent Over Flies

Posterior deltoids and triceps provide movement of upper extremities during the arm swing.

5.Single Leg Dead Lifts

These promote strengthening of the hamstrings and balance. Contraction of the hamstrings is needed for knee flexion and stabilization.

6.Single Leg Static Lunge- One of my favorites for glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Use light weights with your arm swing for added upper body strength and muscle endurance.

7.Suspended Crunch- this will strengthen all of your ab muscles to include rectus abdominals and transverse abdominals. This requires a contraction of the hip flexor group also.

Download this video to your phone and take it to the gym with you. I hope you find these these exercises helpful and the science behind them.

Thinking about hiring a coach for your next iron distance event? Click the box below and fill in your information for a FREE 15 min CHAT with me about your triathlon goals!

One more thing...if you'd like me to do your run gait video analysis and help you run more efficiently and with better running economy, click this button to sign up!

Mary Timoney

Ironman University Certified Coach

USA Cycling Coach

ACSM Trainer


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