To enhance your running, you must lace up your shoes and run rigorously. To gain strength, you should engage in weightlifting. Combining both activities can work wonders for your running performance. While some marathon runners avoid strength training, believing it may make them bulky and slow, the truth is that it can actually enhance their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Therefore, incorporating strength training into their routine is crucial for marathon runners.
One specific exercise that all serious marathon runners need to include in their training is split squats. Let’s dive into why split squats are indispensable for marathon runners during both pre-season training and in-season to prevent injuries.
Advantages of Split Squats
Consider the following benefits the next time you think about skipping your leg workout.
Corrects Muscle Imbalance Between Legs
Unlike bilateral squats, split squats can help address any imbalance between your legs, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing running performance. Given that running predominantly involves single-leg movement, training in a similar fashion is beneficial.
Engages Multiple Muscles With Less Resistance
Split squats require more effort and activate a wider range of muscle fibers, particularly engaging the hip abductors and adductors to stabilize your hips, which is crucial for a single-leg activity like running.
Enhances Core Strength and Stability
The uneven balance in split squats forces your core muscles to engage in order to maintain stability and proper posture, essentially serving as a form of covert core training, something that is indispensable for overall strength.
Muscles Targeted by Split Squats
Understanding the primary muscles worked during split squats can further highlight why they are crucial for marathon runners.
Glutes: The glutes are heavily engaged to extend the hips and bring you up from the bottom of the squat position in a split stance.
Hip Abductors: These muscles work hard to stabilize the hips and maintain balance, supporting efficient running mechanics and reducing the risk of knee injuries.
Adductors: Assist in hip flexion and extension, aiding in correct knee alignment for improved running efficiency.
Quads: While the quads are engaged in various squat variations, split squats put more load on the working leg, effectively stimulating quad muscle development.
Benefits of Split Squats for Marathon Runners
While running should be the main focus for marathon runners, incorporating a few weekly strength training sessions can have immense benefits.
Improved strength and conditioning contribute to faster recovery, enabling the muscles and respiratory system to endure more. While many emphasize how split squats can enhance race times and overall performance, the impact on post-race recovery is often overlooked.
For instance, some of my marathon clients, after incorporating split squats and other glute exercises into their routine, experienced minimal soreness just three days after completing the Honolulu Marathon. Strengthening your legs can significantly expedite recovery after a race.
Improved Lower Body Coordination and Efficiency
Routine split squat exercises along with lower body power training can enhance running coordination and power, ultimately leading to improved running efficiency.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Engaging in strength training reduces the likelihood of overuse injuries by strengthening ligaments and tendons, which results in increased collagen production, contributing to the overall strength of tendons and ligaments. Enhanced bone and connective tissue strength significantly reduces the risk of injury. Additionally, stronger quads act as shock absorbers during foot strikes, further reducing the risk of knee issues.
Enhanced Glute Development
Many runners have well-developed hamstrings but lack significant glute development due to the dominance of the hamstrings during running. Incorporating split squats can balance muscle development, providing the necessary power and endurance for marathon running.
Optimal Split Squat Variation for Off-Season Training
Consider incorporating the hand-supported split squat into your routine. This variation involves using a squat rack and a dumbbell or kettlebell. The added stability allows greater focus on the quads and glutes with less reliance on the stabilizing muscles, making it suitable for all levels of lifters.
How to Perform the Hand-Supported Split Squat:
- Stand next to the squat rack with your working leg.
- Lightly grip the squat rack with your fingers and thumb while holding a heavy dumbbell in the opposite hand.
- Assume a split stance with your front foot pointing forward and rooted to the ground.
- Slowly lower yourself until your knee touches the floor while maintaining a slight forward lean.
- Push back up through your front foot to return to the starting position.
- Repeat on both sides.
Sets and Reps: Opt for two to four sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side for optimal results.