Whether you run marathons, triathlons, or the ever popular obstacle races, every athlete under the sun will tell you that preparations for these races are vital. And by preparations, we mean training. Training for a race is just as important, if not more so, than running the actual race itself. A race is just one day a year, hypothetically speaking, right?
Training is every day. It’s how you stay healthy and happy. It’s something you plan your day around because you understand just how important it is.
Many runners assume that to train for a race you have to do just that: You have to run! But what you may not know is that building lean muscle through strength training is just as important as the running aspect to races. Your muscles need to be at their strongest to get you through those long distances. And if you’ve ever run an obstacle course, like Spartan or Tough Mudder, you understand just how important upper body and lower body strength is.
That is why we’ve put together a list of the very best exercises you can practice to get you in tiptop shape for your upcoming race. Some you may have heard of, some maybe not, but we guarantee that with these exercises and a proper diet, come race day you will blow your competitors out of the water.
- The Deadlift. We love the deadlift. It is hands down one of the best exercises to strengthen your gluts and hamstrings. Not only that though, if performed correctly, you are really hitting all the major muscles groups of the body. You’re activating your core. You’re engaging your Latissimus Doris (the large muscle in the upper back). And, if using heavy enough weights, you are strengthening your grip (obstacle racers take note!) It doesn’t matter if you’re using a barbell, kettlebell, or some other tool. Just get that deadlift into your training program.
- Farmers Carry. You may not know what a farmers carry is and that’s okay. Basically, you are picking up heavy weights and walking around the room with them at your sides. It may not sound horribly taxing, but farmers carries are amazing for building core strength, stamina and grip strength. By holding a substantial amount of weight and walking around the room, you are inadvertently putting pressure on your bones, thus strengthening them. It may not be jumping jacks, but the effect is the same with less impact to the joints.
- Front Squats. Really, any squat is going to be great for strengthening your quadriceps and gluts. But we say “front squats” because having the weight in front of the body will activate your core muscles better than if the weight were resting on your shoulders like you’ve seen bodybuilders do. And as an added bonus, by actively holding the weight with your arms instead of passively on your shoulders, you’re strengthening your arms and shoulders as well.
- Turkish Get-up. You may not have heard of the Turkish get-up, so check out this video if you need a reference. The get-up up is an all-over strength builder. But it also works on conditioning, mobility and stability. All three of those components are important when running a race.
- Pull ups. Really, any “rowing” action will do, but for arguments sake, we chose pull ups as the go-to for building upper body strength. Especially if you run obstacle courses and triathlons, you know just how vital upper back, arm and shoulder strength is. Pull ups are a sure-fire way to build strength in all those areas.
- Push ups. Just as the pull ups will strengthen your back, push ups are amazing at strengthening your chest, shoulders and arms. And the good news is, with both the push ups and pull ups, all you need is your bodyweight.
- Plank. Yes, we realize planks can be insufferably boring to perform. But they are vital when it comes to building overall strength. Primarily a core exercise, the plank is a wonderful exercise. But it’s so much more than that. It works the arms, the back, the legs and heats up the body’s core temperature. In fact, we would recommend doing planks as a warm-up to your race!
- Lunges. Lunges are just an overall great exercise to learn. They work every lower body muscle you can think of. But they also work on your mobility and balance. Again, these are two components that you may not think about as you race, but they are just as important to work on as strength and stamina.
And there you have it! Eight of the best exercises you can do to get you through your next race. So get up and start training! You will be pleasantly surprised with your outcome.