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3 Strength Exercises for Runners to FIX Weak Glutes and Calves

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Let's cut to the chase:

This is NOT your typical "do a billion different kinds of calf raises to strengthen your gastrocs to fix your Achilles tendonitis."


There's nothing particularly wrong with that method...

So if that's what you're looking for, this probably isn't the blog post or video for you.


But if you're sick and tired of doing calf raises for days:

  • FOR ANY RUNNING PREAHB (including achilles issues)

  • and find that they actually make things WORSE

  • ...then THIS IS the place for you, runner.

Because something a lot of runners DON'T KNOW:

  • your regular, weekly strength circuit can be tailored to EXACTLY what YOU need as runner

  • AND still build strength

  • serve as prehab

  • and regardless of having a history of glute weakness, achilles issues, fill in the blank...

When you train and strengthen your glutes and calves/achilles tendon TOGETHER, you become a better, faster, stronger, more resilient runner.


Sounds to good to be true?

Promise it isn't.


Let's jump right in!


3 Strength Exercises for Runners with Weak Glutes and Calves

Circuit: 3 rounds

2-3x a week // medium and light weight

  • Split Squat with OH weight (10 reps ea side)

  • RDL with hip IR (start with body weight and progress to light weight; 10 reps ea side)

  • Elongated runner's lunge to sprinter's jump (8x ea side)

Why THESE exercises?

I've had my fair share of "dumb runner moments" where I jumped too quickly into a lower heel drop shoe.

And I paid for it Achilles tendon soreness the next day.

Ran again.

And was rewarded with needing to take a week off afterwards.


So during that down time I realized the error of my ways and the need to be my own savior.

Hence, this exercises circuit was created.


THE POINT:

There is a functional strength and stability relationship between your GLUTE and ANKLE. By taking advantage of this and deliberately training them together, you level up your running-strength game.


By doing a strength circuit like this one, you are encouraging your body to build strength in these 2 teammate muscle groups in a way that looks like running.


The magic?

Your body can then translate those strength gains into the action and movement of running.


The result?

Your body is more resilient against injury...and you begin to run faster ;)


Obviously there can still be a need to spend some extra TLC on your Achilles Tendon if this is more than just a maintenance routine (Check out my STRONGER FEET workshop here!), but effective strength work doesn't have to take hours!


It simply needs to be tailored to your needs, time, and training schedule.

EXERCISE DEEP DIVE

Split Squat with OH weight

Regular squats are good...but variations of single leg squats are better ;)

  • split squats look like running and are an excellent progression from your regular squat into the world of single leg-running-specific squats

  • holding a plate, dumbbell, medicine ball, etc overhead helps integrate your core into your squat

  • Runners "forget" to do upper body work; so "sneak it in". Otherwise you're doing yourself a major disservice. By working your upper body and core in this overhead capacity, you directly improve and strengthen your running posture

RDL with Hip IR (internal rotation)

When I say this one is a doozy, I mean in

  • "falling inward" towards your stance leg is a VERY small motion; it's not going to feel like a lot. In fact, this is actually a compensation we typically coach clients/patients out of doing in the physical therapy world

  • but if YOU do it in a controlled manner, you actually begin to target itty-bitty glute and rotator muscles that are imperative to overall glute and leg strength

  • did I mention your feet muscles and overall single leg balance will be super challenged? Don't underestimate effectiveness simply because an exercise looks simple, easy (or even dumb ;) )

Elongated Runner's Lunge to Sprinter's Jump

If you've never done a plyometric before, here's to starting a new chapter!

  • Plyo's are the unsung heros in the running injury and running performance world.

  • This one is great to start with because it looks like running and doesn't require any fancy boxes or benches for you to jump on to.

  • It's a fantastic addition to an Achilles tendon prehab or end stage rehab circuit as it challenges the tendon to travel from an elongated position into a shortened position by contracting in a way to produce POWER (jumping UP into the air) followed by, asking your achilles tendon and gastroc to accept the load of returning back to the ground.

  • THE SECRET HERE: we as runners spend a lot of time training to generating force (aka running FAST). But we're not so good (or consistent) at training the opposite: slowing down and accepting the load of deceleration. This exercise gives YOU that advantage!


WRAPPING UP

If you're looking for a way to keep Achilles Tendonitis issues at bay:

this circuit is your answer.


If you're curious about an effective, fast strength circuit designed for runners that will take 20mins or less:

this circuit is STILL your answer.


Effective running performance exercises don't have to take forever.

They just need to look like running and be tailored to you.


Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT


P.S. Looking for even more strength exercises? I've got you covered in my FREE strength Guide for runners HERE!

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