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The Importance of Compound Exercises for Runners

Runners know the importance of building up muscle strength and core strength. The most efficient exercises not only to build up muscle strength, but to also to add multi-joint movements, use more muscle groups are compound exercises.

What are compound exercises?

Compound movements use more than one muscle group, you can activate a variety of muscles at once rather than focusing on a single muscle isolation exercise. When performing compound exercises it also involves three categories; cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training, which is essential to help improve your running form and performance. Runners also need to combine intervals, hill repeats and tempo session in their running training plan to balance all the muscle strengthening benefits.

Basic compound exercises using multiple muscles at the same time:

  • Dumbbell Squat Thrust:  Squat with shoulder press. Start with dumbbells on the shoulders.Sumo Squat High Row: Sumo squat with dumbbells, lift elbows high.

  • Reverse Lunge Bicep Curl: Reverse lunge step back, come back up and bring the forward leg up, and perform bicep curl with dumbbells.

  • Lateral Lunge Touchdown Press Up: Side lunge, reach down to the right foot with the dumbbells and press up on the up.

  • Renegade Row: Start in plank position, perform one push up, then pull one dumbbell up to the side of the chest and alternate. Make sure you engage the core and push both feet into the ground to stabilize the body.

  • Bridge Chest Fly: Start in bridge, when lifting the hips press up then perform chest fly opening the arms, go back down.

  • Burpee Push Up- Jump into plank, push up and jump back up.

Perform 10-15 reps & 2-3 sets twice or three times per week

Benefits of compound exercises:

Improves muscular coordination– This is the function and timing of multiple muscles around joints. For example, when performing a squat press up, the whole gluteus complex (gluteus maximus, medius, minimus) is involved, they move the hips in all three planes of motion and the press ups work on strengthening the arms and shoulders. This type of exercise work the muscles together to produce and control force.

Cardiovascular training benefit– Cardiovascular fitness means how effective your heart is at pumping blood and oxygen around the body, and how your muscles use oxygen to give you energy to sustain your performance. Doing exercises that involve a significant amount of tissue is more beneficial in cardio strength training. Improving cardio for runners is so important to provide more energy for endurance, uphill running. Performing these compound exercises challenges the heart to pump blood to keep the muscles fueled and active.

Improves movement efficiency– Training only one muscle group at a time does not teach multiple muscle groups to coordinate their contractions and firing rates, which is how muscles contract. If you notice, muscle builders often move like robots, due to only isolation exercises. Compound exercises that involve large groups of muscles train the muscles how to coordinate the firing of the motor units responsible for timing muscle contractions. These exercises improve movement skills and dynamic balance, which can improve the running form and prevent injuries.

Improves dynamic flexibility– Compound exercises involve an active range of motion which is a form of dynamic stretching, which involves moving a joint through a range of motion to lengthen the surrounding tissue. When performing an exercise where muscles on one side of a joint contract, the muscles on the opposite side have to lengthen to allow contraction to occur.  After a few reps, the contractions and activity in the triggered muscles elevate the temperature and inhibit activity, which reduces tension and improves length. Think of lunges, squats combined with arm strengthening exercises.

Hormone release– Performing compound exercises is highly effective in stimulating and increasing testosterone and growth hormones, which are essential for overall health. Testosterone hormones are responsible for building muscles, and burning fat. Running also increases testosterone hormone levels, especially short-distance, intervals, and speedwork. Growth hormones (HGH), are responsible for all cells inside the body, contributes to cell reproduction and regeneration, which is very important for improving running performance and endurance. Both hormones also contribute to fat burning, Compound exercises provide “afterburn effect”, burning more calories after your workout EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. You can burn 10-15% more calories post-training up to 24 hours.

Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!


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