This is the strength training version of “eat this not that” for better health. Specifically, these substitutions are aimed at helping runners refine their resistance training and get more return on investment. Now keep in mind, this is not to say the exercises I’m suggesting we drop are “bad” in any way. Instead, there are other variations that are more appropriate for runners.
In terms of exercise selection, I like to choose movements that reduce the risk of injury but also ensure the juice is worth the squeeze. So to kick this party off we are going to start with three movements that almost all runners should know:
The conventional barbell deadlift is everywhere: gyms, CrossFit boxes, Instagram pages, garages, etc. There is nothing wrong with this movement. However, there is the often-forgotten sibling called the Hex Bar Deadlift. The Hex Bar variation reduces load/stress on the lower back and stresses the quadriceps muscles more so than its barbell counterpart. For these two reasons, I am a big fan of swapping in the Hex Bar for the deadlifts.
Keeping with the theme of quad strengthening, I’m also a fan of replacing the commonly (over)done lunges and Bulgarian/rear foot elevated split squats. These are excellent choices for overall leg strength. They are also movements that place significant stress on the knee joint itself when compared to other options. Running mileage places a significant amount of stress on the knees to begin with. For obvious reasons, the volume is important and it should be complemented with strength work. The strength work should not add any more exercise-induced muscle fatigue than absolutely necessary. For this reason, I like to swap any lunge or complex knee-dominant motion for the lateral step down. It’s a movement that yields significant return without the added stress on the knee we see with lunges, etc.
I’m just going to come right out of the gate and say that I don’t care that you can plank for 5 minutes. Sorry if that hurts your feelings, but there just isn’t much benefit there. My stance on this pushes back on decades worth of plank info and plank challenges, but I’m not impressed with the bar trick anymore. I’m far more impressed with your ability to side plank with your top leg raised. If you’re a runner and want to solve knee or hip issues, chances are you should master the side plank and its variations to improve capacity in your torso and legs.
That about wraps it up for this week’s “do this not that” segment. I have a feeling I’ll be having a lot of fun continuing this theme. Happy Training!