Fitness Friday – Weight Training For Injury Prevention

Well hello there and welcome to another Fitness Friday! This week I’m talking about weight training for injury prevention. I suspect this may turn into yet another series of posts, as there are so many common injuries and even more ways to prevent them!

Today’s specific focus will be on running related injuries and what exercises you need to be doing on your cross-training days to make sure your running isn’t sidelined.

I would say the take-home point of my personal training course was that everything in the body is connected. Muscles, joints and tendons rely on one another to move in perfect unison. If there are any imbalances, then repetitive motion (or lack of motion) will heighten it and lead to injury.

Common running injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, “runner’s knee,” IT band syndrome and hip flexor issues can sometimes be prevented by making sure those areas are all properly supported by strong muscles.

Now, if you are already suffering from any of these ailments, I have to stress that you get the okay from a doc before lifting weights in the gym. Self-diagnosing is bad enough, but self-treating is even worse!

The following is just a snippet of the moves that should be added to your strength training roster on your off-running days (because you are strength training – right?? *glare*). I’ll let you know how to do them, what area it works, what it can prevent, and at the end I’ll let you know how to put it all together. Sooo… let’s get to it!


Furniture Lift

How To Do it: Sit in a chair with your toes tucked under a desk, shelf or couch. Lift your toes as if you’re lifting the piece of furniture with them, hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat.

Works: Your anterior tibialis, aka the small muscle in your shin. Dorsiflexion of the foot, what we usually think of as flexing our foot and toes upward, is the only motion that will work that muscle. What common exercise can you think of that incorporates this foot motion with resistance on your toes? Nothing? Exactly. This is something you can do while trying not to fall asleep at your desk and it could help those nagging running pains immensely.

Prevents: Shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, pulled calf


Calf Raise

How To Do It: Stand on a step (with the option of holding dumbbells) with just your toes on the surface and heels hanging off. Push up onto your toes, then let your weight sink into your heels past the step. Repeat! This is really difficult if you have bad balance, so the standing or seated calf machines at the gym will do just fine.

Works: The gastrocnemius (upper calf) muscle and soleus (lower calf).

Prevents: Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, pulled calf

Inner Thigh Lift

How To Do It: Lay on your side, bend your top leg and bring that foot in front of you. Hold on to that foot with your top hand to keep it stable, then flex your outstretched leg, lifting and lowering it to the ground.

Works: Adductor muscles (aka your inner thigh)

Prevents: Runner’s knee

Side note: You can also work your outer thigh from this position. Keep your top leg outstretched, hold a dumbbell in place on your outer thigh to add extra weight, then lift and lower it. This will also hit your IT band and help with IT band sydrome.


Plie Squat

How To Do It: Take on a wiiiide stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab a weight, keeping your shoulders back and chest forward, stick your butt back and squat down, then push back up.

Works: Inner thighs, glutes, quadriceps.

Prevents: Hip injury, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome

Side note: I highly recommend waiting until the weight area is empty before doing this one. It’s a little friendly! :P


Bulgarian Split Squat

How To Do It: Place the top of your foot on a bench or high step, take a biiiig step out (like, an extra few inches out from where you’re comfortable). Bend your forward leg, squatting down until your back knee almost hits the floor, then push through your heel back up.

Works: Quadriceps, glutes.

Prevents: Hip injury, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome.


Prone Leg Raise on Ball 

How To Do It: Lie face down (“prone”) on an exercise ball and roll forward until your pelvis (a classier way of saying “crotch”) is on the top of the ball. Place your palms on the floor, and with your feet slightly separated, raise your legs into the air, then lower.

Works: Lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome.


Stiff Leg Deadlift

How To Do It: Grab a barbell or dumbbells (start light), with a very slight bend to the knees, tip forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and shoulders back. Bring the weight down until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs, then engage your hamstrings to pull the weight back up.

Works: Hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome, pulled calf.


Single Leg Deadlift

How To Do It: Same deal as the stiff leg deadlift, except when you come down, bring one of your legs straight back. When you come back up, only tap the floor with that moving foot, before you immediately bring it back again. That prevents any rest from happening during the set and ensures your muscles will stay engaged.

Works: Hips, lower back, hamstrings, glutes.

Prevents: Hip injury, IT band syndrome.


Hamstring Curl on Ball

How To Do It: Lay on your back with your heels resting on the top of an exercise ball. With your arms at your sides, pop your hips up so your body is in a straight line. Roll the ball towards you so your knees come in and the bottom of your feet roll onto the ball. Roll back, keep your hips up and repeat.

Works: Hamstrings, calves, hips.

Prevents: Hip injury, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, pulled calf.


Again, this is just a snippet of the moves that are out there. I specifically chose several weight bearing exercises as I’m a true believe that you need a heavy load to build muscle strength. But because of this, that’s why they’re best for preventing injuries and not treating existing injuries unless you get an okay from your sports doc!

Now, I’m not going to give you a program to follow or anything. Instead I’m going to give you a checklist. Here are the muscles I want you working in every resistance workout:

  • lower back
  • hips
  • glutes
  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • calves
  • shins

Go back and check which muscles are being worked in all these exercises. Once you have a list where each of the above muscles are worked at least once, you’re good to go! I always recommend to do strength training 2-3 times a week, but I cut a little slack for people who are training for something longer than a 10k. Once a week at the very least!


Question of the Day: Have you ever suffered from an exercise related injury? I injured my hip last spring training for my first 5k. Classic overuse injury compounded by the fact that I was running in old sneakers. Couldn’t run for the two months leading up to my triathlon and had to take two straight weeks off all activity. A year later and I’ve finally got my hips strong enough that they don’t give me any trouble anymore when I run :)

Posted on August 27, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Great post! I don’t run but am a passionate weight lifter. Weights are awesome for preventing all kinds of injuries. Thanks!

  2. thanks so much for this post! i’m a beginning runner and very worried about developing injuries. i’ll definitely be adding some of these moves into my weight routine!!

  3. good info! :) even if i don’t run, i think these will help day to day.

  4. Another fabulous post! As a “runner” – I feel silly calling myself one when I don’t rack up close to the number of miles real runners do – these exercises are great. I’ve been so lucky that I have never gotten injured from running *knock on wood* especially since I continued running when I was definitely not fueling myself adequately. I chalk it up to good genes since my mom is a runner =)

    Nicole G

  5. thanks for another awesome post :D

    running is starting to take it’s toll on me physically, both my hips and achilles tendon have been feeling really aggravated, so i think i’m going to take ‘er easy on the intense cardio and do lots of these lovely injury-preventing moves.
    you’re awesome!

  6. this is an awesome post. you should be a trainer! oh wait, you are already :)

    dont have time for the exercise quetion in detail but yes, have suffered tons of injuries!

    TGIF baby!

  7. ah, you are a vat of knowledge! i love this spin you’ve got here on FF. i love how you are informing everyone of the safety benefits of pumping iron!

    hope your weekend is filled with fun <3

  8. Very informative!

    I pulled my groin last fall. I still workout as best as I could…just toned it down a bit.

    I learned diet is key!

  9. Great post. You know my story- hurt my hip training for my half marathon- but it really caused me to take a look back on how and how much I was training. I was clearly doing something wrong! I think it was overtraining, but there are SO many ways to injure yourself exercising, and It is so important to know the precautions to take to prevent it!!


  10. These are such great tips!! I’m a huge fan of strength training, but I must admit that lower body exercises are not my favorite :/

    A couple of months ago I hurt my knee doing squats. At first I swore off squats (which, I can’t say I minded since I’m not a huge fan!), but I recently learned that I was dipping wayyy too low!

    • Yes, some people say you need to bring your “ass to the grass” when squatting. I say save your knees and stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground :)

  11. Great post! I have unfortunately suffered many a injury. Finally at the ripe old age of 25 I feel like I’ve finally got this whole “listen to your body” thing figured out!

  12. I had a problem with my knee a couple of months ago when I was in full training for my half, luckily with rest its ok now, I’ll definitely be taking tips from this post to prevent any more!

  13. Thanks for these! I’ve recently gotten back into running so this is PERFECT info!

  14. I’ve been dealing with IT Band since May and I’m so tired of it!
    I will be adding some of these to my cross training day.

  15. Yep my poor back but you know all about that as does anyone that reads my blog! But good news I’m running for 40/50 minutes now pain free!!!!!!! Happy days x x

  16. Hi
    I have plantar fasciitis myself for a few months now. My podiatrist prescribed me with Custom made orthotics which did not work at all. I understood that treatment efficiency is very individual. If something works for one it may not work for the other. I have found Taping very useful.
    Today as I am feeling much better with the pain I am doing a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises. I have found a good website summary explaining the subject of these exercises in:
    Take care & Good luck

  17. Ah yes….the dreaded runner’s injuries. I seem to have all of them lately. I’ve been working hard trying to strengthen my hips specifically because of ITB issues. :(

  1. Pingback: Fitness Friday – Stretching For Runners | The Great Balancing Act

  2. Pingback: Trying New Exercises: Plie Squat

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