Week 1: marathon strength-training

Your first set of runner-specific exercises gets back to basics.

In focusing so intently on hitting mileage goals, most aspiring 26.2 finishers neglect a major component of race prep: Strength-training. That’s why we tapped a team of Equinox trainers to develop a 16-week strength-training plan designed specifically with a marathoner’s needs in mind. These weekly workouts will complement your running schedule perfectly, setting you up for a stronger, faster finish.

For your kickoff week, the experts want you to start simple—just as you'll build up your mileage over the course of the next few months, your strength-training program will evolve. "The thought process behind the 16-week program is that it's smarter to start at the most basic of movements (squats, push-ups, etc) to ensure good quality of movement before adding more complicated movements like Kettlebell swings, lunge to cable rows, and the like," explains Boston-based Tier 4 trainer Chris Heuisler, who designed this plan with fellow Tier 4 trainer Jason Skinner.

This set of moves will fire up runner-specific muscles while strengthening your stride. "The World's Greatest Stretch—we're not exaggerating here—could easily be called 'The Runner's Greatest Stretch'," says Heuisler. "The Band Knee-Ups give some resistance to your natural gait pattern, so you are reenforcing dorsi-flexion, which is often lacking in runners." (Dorsi-flexion is the act of bringing your toes upward towards your shin).

And while you may look funny doing Clam Shells on your club's stretching mat, they are great for warming up your glutes, Heuisler says. "Warming up the glutes before doing any leg exercise is crucial." Make sure you feel the Bowler Squat in the glutes as well as the quads, says Skinner.

Below, your first week of strength-training moves, modeled by Heuisler. Perform the indicated reps for each exercise once a week, then check back next Monday for your second set of moves.

World's Greatest Stretch

(1) World's Greatest Stretch (mobility)

Click here for the instructions.

Band Knee-Up

(2) Band Knee-Up (activation)

Wrap a resistance band around both feet. Stand tall and drive right knee up while mimicking a running motion with your arms. During the knee drive, maintain a neutral spine and stay tall. The left leg should be stable with the glute active. Perform 10-15 reps; switch legs and repeat.

Clam Shell

(3) Clam Shell (movement prep)

With a band wrapped around knees, lie on your left side with knees bent 90 degrees. While pressing right hand into the floor for core engagement, open knees while keeping feet together. In order to maximize glute involvement, be sure to keep motion to the hip only and do not allow the lower back to rotate. Perform 10-15 reps; switch sides and repeat.

 Bowler Squat

(4) Bowler Squat (movement)

Stand on right leg with a slight bend to the knee. Bend at the hip and knee simultaneously and reach left arm towards right foot. Keep chest up and you will be forced to move at not only the hip but the knee as well. Go as deep as possible while maintaining a neutral spine. Perform 10-15 reps; switch sides and repeat.