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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019

5 gym exercises to help improve your 5k time this running season

As the evenings get longer, we’re back into running season.

A QUESTION I often get asked is whether strength training should be included in training for endurance running, or whether it will slow you down.

It’s well documented that there are distinct benefits of both types of training — endurance training benefits our metabolic health, while strength training helps to improve our functional capacity.

When combined in an appropriate manner, these two forms of training can really maximise your potential to reach your running goals.

Since January I have been training for the Garmin Great Ireland Run which takes place on 15 April in the Phoenix Park.

With only a few weeks to go, my training plan will begin to change and here are some of the best exercises I recommend to include in your training in the lead up to any 5/10k run this spring.

The squat

shutterstock_390236356 Source: Shutterstock/g-stockstudio

Some call the squat the king of lower body strength exercises and you would be hard pressed to argue with that.

A fantastic exercise, when done correctly, the squat demonstrates strength, control, coordination and mobility.

The first thing I look at when training a new client is to have them perform a bodyweight squat. By simply looking at how they perform a squat, I can tell a lot about a person’s movement capabilities.

This movement is a fantastic starting point and a fantastic addition to a strength program which will lead to more efficient running economy.

How to: Chest up tall, core tight, shift weight back onto your heels as you descend in a slow, controlled manner, knees drive nice and wide, drop below parallel and drive back up strong and fast.

Progressions: Goblet squat to back squat/front squat

Split squat

shutterstock_304325720 Source: Shutterstock/GlebSStock

As running is done predominantly on one leg, it makes sense to increase our single leg strength in order to facilitate our bilateral work with our squat previously mentioned.

This fantastic static exercise will work the quads, glutes and abductors along with the surrounding stabilising muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Get strong in this movement, move up the progressions and I guarantee your likelihood of injury will decrease dramatically, along with a big improvement in your running times.

How to: Split stance, back foot up on the toes, chest up tall as you descend in a slow, controlled manner, knee drives nice and wide, drop back knee to the ground then drive back up strong and fast keeping core tight throughout.

Progressions: Rear foot elevated split squat

Horizontal row

shutterstock_179741471 Source: Shutterstock/Jasminko Ibrakovic

This horizontal pulling movement works massive portions of your back, biceps and core, and is an extremely effective exercise to include in your programme.

With the rise of technology and an increased amount of time in a seated head forward position, this is where most are predominantly weak.

For this reason, horizontal pulling movements are extremely important to address such weaknesses.

Together with addressing some possible weaknesses and improved posture this exercise will increase upper body strength and in turn lead to more efficient running mechanics.

How to: Start with chest underneath bar or rings, looking for a straight line from knee to shoulder, stick chest out and pull chest to bar, squeezing shoulder blades together at the top.

Progressions: Supine dumb bell row variation to barbell bent over row

Push up

shutterstock_296586320 Source: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

The push up, a big upper body movement, targets the chest, shoulders, arms and core.

Another bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment, this upper body exercise — along with the above mentioned rowing exercise — will help connect that kinetic chain from top to toe, along with stabilising the upper body to maintain an upright posture which will lead to more efficient mechanics whilst running.

How to: Up on the toes, shoulders over wrists with core tight, slowly lower nose to ground before driving back up, making sure not to let that lower back sink too much.

Progressions: Feet elevated push ups to barbell bench press

High plank with shoulder taps

shutterstock_1029161512 Source: Shutterstock

It is essential to build a strong and stable core for running. Here is another basic movement that should be an essential part of any program.

This predominantly core strengthening exercise works the abdominals, obliques, the pelvic floor area as well as the lower back muscles.

A strong and stable core will not only reduce the risk of injury but will allow the upper and lower limbs to move freely, transferring force from one extremity to another.

This is a fantastic exercise that will improve stability, reduce risk of injury and improve your overall running performance.

How to: Same start position as push up, resisting movement through hips touch opposite hand to opposite shoulder in a slow controlled movement keeping core strong and tight throughout.

Progressions: High plank with opposite arm and leg reach.

Including these five fundamental movements patterns into your current training regime will help build a strong and solid foundation.

Your running performance will reap the rewards, setting you up nicely for the Garmin Great Ireland Run and a busy summer of running beyond.

Best of luck!

Sean Harding is a performance coach based in Dublin and an Ambassador for the Garmin Great Ireland Run, which offers events for all fitness levels 10k, 5k as well as junior events. To sign up click here or you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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