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Strength Training

Combo Strength Workouts For Trail Runners

This collection of dynamic combo-move exercises maximizes your time and effort investment to help you become a faster and more resilient runner.

If you invest in the stock market, you want a high ROI with your stock investments. You should also want a similar return on your time and effort investment in your strength workouts. Not all workouts or exercises are created equal; you need to make sure you choose exercises with the best ROI that are going to help you become a faster and more resilient runner. This 5 exercise workout is designed to strengthen your running muscles with dynamic exercise combos, chosen so you can feel the target muscles work during each rep.

You can do this workout 1–2 times per week on non-running workout days. This workout can also be performed after a running workout as a second workout in the day. Always start with a 5-10 minute jog to warm up the body and joints. Do one set of A1, then one set of A2 with minimal rest. Take 60-90 seconds between sets and repeat, doing 3–4 total sets. Repeat the sequence with B1 and B2, doing 3–4 sets total. For exercise C1, alternate sides and do 3–4 sets/leg with 10–15 reps/leg in each set.

Exercise A1: Reverse Slide Lunge with VMO Emphasis

Set-up: Place a circular band around a sturdy anchor point and stand inside of it with your right leg. Place the band behind your upper calf. Face the anchor point and walk backwards until tension is created in the band. Place a furniture slider or hand towel beneath your left foot (make sure it will slide on surface you’re standing on). Hold a dumbbell in your left hand.

How: Slide your left foot back as you bend your knees to perform a lunge. Bring your left knee toward the floor and lean forward slightly. Notice that the band tension decreases. Next, press your right foot down to stand up. Contract your right quad to fully straighten your knee to recreate the band tension. This is one rep.

Do: Perform 12–15 reps/leg, then move to exercise A2.

Exercise #A2: Half Kneeling Glute Isometric Squeeze

Set-up: Place a circular band around a sturdy anchor point and stand inside of it with your left leg. Face the anchor point and slide the band up your leg just beneath your glute. Walk backwards until you increase band tension. Kneel with your left knee on a cushion and place your right foot flat in front of you.

How: Squeeze your left glute and lean back slightly. You should notice a stretch develop in the front of your left hip flexor/upper quad. Hold this glute squeeze for 10 seconds. Relax your glute and notice the stretch disappear. This is one rep.

Do: Perform 8 x 10-second glute squeezes per side. Take 60–90 seconds of rest, then return to A1. Complete 3–4 total sets of A1 and A2.

Exercise #B1: Copenhagen Side Plank

Set-up: Lie on your side. Place your bottom elbow on the floor and bend your bottom knee to bring your leg slightly in front of you. Place your top foot on a 12” box or on top of a BOSU balance half ball. Lift your hips into the air and form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. You should be balancing on your bottom elbow with the inside of your top foot on the elevated surface.

How: Bring your bottom knee and top elbow towards each other in front of you while you remain in the side plank position.

Do: Perform 15 reps/side, then move on to exercise B2.

Exercise #B2: Bear Plank Bird Dog

Set-up: Place your hands and knees on the floor with your shoulders above your wrists and your hips above your knees. Create a neutral arch in your back. Next, lift your knees slightly off the ground.

How: Lift one arm and your oppose leg with your knee bent toward the horizontal without moving your body or losing the tabletop position. Return those limbs to the floor and switch sides.

Do: Perform 10 lifts/side, then take a 60–90 second rest break. Return to B1 and perform 3–4 total sets of B1 and B2.

Exercise #C1: Step Up to Calf Raise

Set-up: Stand with your forefoot on an elevated surface as if you were getting ready to perform a calf raise. Make sure the elevated surface is near an object you can grab or hold onto for balance.

How: Take a lunge backwards, off the elevated surface, with your opposite leg. Bring your rear knee toward the floor and lean slightly forward at the bottom of this lunge. Push down with your foot that is on the box and as you approach the standing position, bring your opposite knee up and lean forward while you do a calf raise. Hold onto the object for balance if you need to.

Do: Perform 10–15 reps per side and alternate sides for 3–4 total sets. You can take a 30-second rest break between sides and a 60-second rest break between sets.

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS, CEP is a Strength & Conditioning Coach with 15 years of experience. He’s a co-owner of JKConditioning, a health and fitness business in St. John’s, NL, Canada, a retired competitive runner and a long time contributor to PodiumRunner.