Resistance Bands for Running | Best Strength Exercises for Runners
Is it a good idea to use resistance bands for running? Most definitely. In this post I’m going to tell you how adding exercise bands to your training arsenal can help you:
- Improve your running strength
- Solidify your technique
- Lessen the chance of injury
We’re going to look in detail at some of the benefits of using bands in your supplementary training, what kind of bands you should use, and what exercises to do with them.
So let’s jump right in:
Why to use resistance bands for running
We all know that if you want to get good at running, the main thing you need to do is… run. It was good enough for the ancient Greeks, it was good enough for your grand-pappy, and it’s certainly good enough for you and me.
I’m not for a moment disputing the fact that a runner’s training plan should consist almost exclusively of running. But the ‘almost’ – there lies the rub. While it may have been good enough for our grand-folks to pound the trail all day, and never do anything else, times have changed. After all, it was only in the last few decades that boxers started adding weight-lifting to their training. Before then, it was considered worse than useless; now it’s a no-brainer.
Adding a separate component of strength exercises to your running, or any athletic sport, creates a baseline of strength and solidity that you can build upon to push the limit of what you’re capable of. Having a strong lower body and core is essential to the ability to smoothly transmit power to the ground and maintain a forceful stride – regardless of whether we’re talking about marathon running or the 40-yard dash.
Using resistance bands for increasing your running strength is a superb way to train those parts of your body which are so important for runners – pelvis, glutes, knees, and the deep core muscles in your abdomen.
But you can exercise those parts with weights too, right? Yes, you can, but resistance bands are better because they are able to exert force in any direction (unlike weights, which must always follow gravity). This means, for example, that they can be used to apply horizontal resistance to your legs during stepping motions, hitting the exact muscles you need to develop to be a strong runner. More on this later.
I know myself the anguish of injury, of not being able to do the things I love because of some silly, niggling pain that just won’t go away. To some, getting injured is a career-ender, a life-ruiner, a calamity waiting to happen to anyone who puts a foot wrong.
Whatever your situation, if you enjoy being active, you should take injury-prevention very, very seriously. When it comes to injury-proofing your body, resistance bands are, once again, better than weights. This is partly because of the way they can be used to exercise your joints and muscles from multiple angles. But it also has a lot to do with something called ascending resistance.
Unlike weights, the resistance level of elastic material increases as it is stretched. This means that they match the strength curve of your muscles – i.e. your muscles receive a higher level of resistance when they are in a stronger position. This is important for physical therapy because it means that your muscles get an adequate level of resistance throughout their full range of motion.
Resistance bands are also kinder to your joints when you use them for strength training, much less likely to cause injuries or imbalances which can affect your running.
Best resistance bands for running
The number of exercises you can do with resistance bands is virtually unlimited, and there several types of bands which are great for improving your running strength. Have a look at our full product range of bands here. But I want to focus on one particular type of resistance band which I think is the best for runners:
Glute Resistance Bands
Glute resistance bands are simple loops which you can place around your legs while doing various lower body exercises. This activates your glute, hip and pelvic muscles – which are so important for running strong and injury-free.
Let’s have a look at some of the exercises you can do with glute resistance bands to improve your running.
How to use resistance bands for running
Exercise #1: Lateral Shuffle
Your hips and glutes play a huge role in powering you forward when you sprint and in maintaining a strong gait over longer runs. This movement strongly activates your hip and glute muscles. Check out this video from our YouTube channel for how to do the exercise:
Another variation of this exercise is done moving forwards and backwards, instead of side to side, like this:
With the band around your legs, take several steps forward and then return by walking backwards. Repeat the movement for as long as possible.
Exercise #2: Squats
Squats are the king of lower body exercises, hitting your glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips and groin. Squats should be at the core of every runner’s strength training arsenal.
Here are 4 squat variations you can do with the band looped around your legs:
Diagonal Split Squat
Note: in this exercise you drop down into the 2nd position and kick your legs out wide as fast as possible, then return slowly.
Exercise #3: Kickbacks
Kickbacks are a glute isolation exercise which target your gluteus maximus, medius and minimus muscles – AKA your butt. These are the strongest muscles in your body and they’re vital for keeping you upright and for enabling strong forward locomotion. Having strong glutes also makes your legs more stable, decreasing the chance of problems further down, like in the knees. And as a bonus, everyone admires a nice strong booty!
4 variations of glute kickbacks:
Exercise #4: Hip Flexors
Your hip flexors are the group of muscles that connect your legs to your hips and spine, allowing you to move your legs forward in a flexion motion. Your hip flexors are comprised of: Psoas Major, Iliacus, Rectus Femoris, Pectineus and Sartorius. It’s especially important for runners to have strong hip flexors because of the vital role they play in forward locomotion, and also because these muscles are very easy to injure during running.
6 movements that hit your hip flexors:
Standing Hip Flexion
Standing Hip Abduction
Lying Hip Abduction
Exercise #5: Core Strength
Having a strong core is important not just for running but for any kind of sports activity. This is because your core forms the central platform from which all movement originates. If these muscles are weak, not only will your movements be weak but you’ll have a higher chance of injuring yourself through poor technique. A strong core doesn’t just mean having a six-pack – the core muscles include your lower back, hips, glutes and the deep abdominal muscles like Transversus Abdominis.
Resistance bands are perfect for working your core. Check out my full blog post on resistance band ab exercises.