Working with runners I’ve heard every excuse in the books as to why they don’t want to add strength training to their routine. Let me count the excuses: 1. Weights will make me bulky 2. I’ll be too sore to get a good run in tomorrow 3. Lifting weights will make me become too tight…So on and so forth. I’m here to say that I get it, but NO! Number one, too many calories will make you bulky, not adding strength training to your routine. Adding strength exercises will actually make you a stronger runner and is actually what is attributed to that “kick” at the end of a race. Number two, no one is telling you to “max out” during your training block…or ever for that matter. What’s the point? And number three, skipping your regular stretching that should be routine in your days/weeks/months is a surefire way to become tight and injured. So now that we have debunked those myths, I want to tell you about the one exercise that runners need to master ASAP: The deadlift.
Running Specific Exercise
Unlike the squat or the bench press, deadlifts are one of the 3 main powerlifting exercises that are actually specific to a runner. A strong running stance looks very similar to a good deadlift. You’ll notice that good running form requires a slight forward leaning posture and hip hinge, relaxed and slightly retracted shoulders, and a neutral spine. The deadlift specifically focuses on strengthening and reinforcing all of these skills.
Hip hinge will allow for a forward lean on strong hips. Runners want that forward lean in order to maximize forward momentum. You don’t want to waste any of your energy on moving in any direction other than straight ahead. The deadlift specifically emphasizes the hip hinge, where the focus is on pushing the hips backwards, not downwards. Another benefit of the hip hinge is preloading of the glute muscles. In my other posts I talk about why the glutes are so important. If you missed out, go catch up: Pre-run Activation Exercises By being in that slightly hinged position you are optimizing the position for your workhorses to fire on all cylinders, providing you with more power to propel you forward.
Glutes Not Quads
The deadlift is way more specific in targeting the glutes than the quads. The motion of squeezing your glutes and moving the hips forward from the hinged position mimics that ever so important motion of hip extension and driving your leg behind you to progress you forward. In addition to reinforcing movement patterns we WANT while running, we are also avoiding movement patterns we DON’T want in our running. Quad dominance has been shown to lead to injuries, especially of the knee, and also to poor performance. The deadlift does a better job at engaging the glutes than a squat does. Plus, holding the bar in front of the body acts as a counterweight allowing you to sit the hips back into the hinge.
The deadlift, when done correctly, is great for posture. While performing the exercise, the core is engaged, the shoulders are retracted down and back, and the neck is aligned with the rest of the spine. All of these qualities believe it or not should be maintained while running. *Side note: that arch in my back should not be there…5 months of pregnancy will do that to you =( There aren’t much abdominals to tighten anymore especially now that I’m 34 weeks along.
Steps for Performing the Deadlift
- Stand with feet hip width apart. This is not a sumo squat, or even a squat stance for that matter. We want to recreate the running pattern…you don’t run like a duck do you?
- Grip the bar wide enough so that your thumbs, when pointed towards each other, just touch your thigh.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together and tighten your abdominals to maintain good posture.
- Slowly hinge at the hips and push your hips backwards, not downwards, until the bar reaches just below your knees.
- Using your glutes and maintaining your posture, push the hips forward (extension) to return to starting position.
If you have any questions regarding the importance of the deadlift, or how to perform one properly, leave me a comment or feel free to e-mail me through my “contact” page. As always, happy and healthy running!