Last year my running really improved when I added
strength training to my workouts. Now I'm starting a buildup for a fall marathon,
but I no longer have access to a gym. Can you suggest an effective
strength-training regimen that doesn't require gym equipment?
W.D., Raleigh, N.C.
No problem -- you can easily strength train
without gym equipment. I recommend four key exercises. The first two
target major muscle groups in your upper body, and the second two target
The first exercise, and the most challenging, is
the chinup, which works your upper back, rear shoulders, and biceps. It's
best to perform chinups using an "underhand" grip, with your
palms facing toward you on the bar. Do one to three sets of 5 to 10
repetitions every other day.
The second exercise is the pushup, which targets
your chest, front shoulders, and triceps. Do one to three sets of 15 to
30 reps every other day. Just be sensitive to signs of lower-back
discomfort, as pushups place stress on your lumbar spine.
The third exercise is the twisting trunk curl,
which works the abdominal and oblique muscles of your midsection. Lying
on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your
head and shoulders off the ground just like a regular abdominal crunch,
but twist your body to the side -- alternating left and right -- on the
way up. Do one to three sets of 15 to 30 slow and controlled reps every
The final exercise is the trunk extension for the
lower back muscles, a particularly vulnerable area for runners. Lying
face down with your elbows out and hands under your chin, lift your chest
a few inches off the floor, then lower it. Do one to three sets of 5 to
15 reps, slow and controlled, on the same days as the twisting trunk
For each exercise, gradually increase the number
of repetitions until you reach the top of the suggested rep range, then
increase the number of sets.