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Heavy lifting for runners: week three

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Gain speed by strengthening the lower abs, hips, and hamstrings.

Movement sparks progress. For high performers, this forward momentum is powered by currents in science, technology, and subculture. To celebrate the launch of ASICS GEL-CUMULUS® 21, Furthermore and ASICS have partnered to harness the power of these currents and show you how to channel them into actual results.

Though arm drive gets a lot of attention, powerful knee drive is just as important if you want to run faster. “Especially on treadmills, people often don’t lift their legs up enough,” explains Adrianne Nina, Tier 3+ trainer at West Hollywood in California. The reason: a lack of activation in the lower abs, hip flexors, and hamstrings.

When you engage those muscles, you’re able to push your planted foot into the ground with extra force, leading to strong knee drive and propelling you forward more quickly. If you don’t, your feet will barely lift off the ground, your knees will hardly raise, and your pace will slow.

The third week in our heavy lifting program for runners is similar to weeks one and two in that the core remains a priority. However, you’ll progress the previous routines’ exercises with instability (as in the deficit reverse lunge) and more advanced loading patterns (for example, by going from a single kettlebell swing to a double). You’ll also spend more time strengthening the muscles, mentioned above, that make strong knee drive possible.

The workout below is divided into one tri-set and two dual-sets. Longer rest periods gave your muscle fibers time to recover between exercises. This week, your recovery times drop, which will lead to hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Perform the routine at least twice this week, either as a full workout or before that day’s cardio session, Nina says. If you don’t feel ready to progress in a particular exercise, replace it with last week’s variation.

Tri-set: Single kettlebell front rack squat

The benefits: trains for stability by making you resist rotation and lateral flexion (bending left or right) to keep the weight stable

The load: 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand with feet just wider than shoulders holding a kettlebell in the right hand at chest height, with the weight resting on the forearm. Sit back until knees are bent at 90 degrees. Slowly return to start for one rep. Complete 1 set of 8 to 12 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat. Rest for up to 30 seconds, then start the next exercise.

Tri-set: Deficit reverse lunge

The benefits: builds hamstring strength, important for pushing off the ground with more force, propelling you forward

The load: 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand tall with a kettlebell in each hand, the left foot resting on a step, and the right foot hovering in the air. Step your right leg back and lower into a lunge, stopping before your right knee touches the ground. Slowly return to start for one rep. Complete 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat. Rest for up to 30 seconds, then start the next exercise.

Tri-set: Single racked banded knee drive

The benefits: engages the lower abs and the hip flexors so you can drive your knees higher through each step

The load: 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand with feet together, holding a kettlebell in the right hand at chest height (with the weight resting on the forearm) and a mini resistance band looped around the midsole of your feet. In a controlled movement, drive your right knee up until your quad is parallel to the ground, keeping your foot tensed throughout. Slowly return to start for one rep. Complete 1 set of 8 to 12 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat. Recover for 30 to 90 seconds, then repeat the tri-set 2 more times (for 3 total sets).

Dual-set 1: Staggered stance kettlebell deadlift

The benefits: further trains core stability by loading the weight on the front leg, which more closely mimics weight distribution while running

The load: 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand in a staggered stance with the right foot planted on the ground and the left foot behind you. With your hips hinged and your chest almost parallel to the ground, hold a kettlebell on the ground with your left hand. Press your hips forward and lift your chest to stand tall. Slowly return to start for one rep. Complete 1 set of 8 to 12 reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat. Rest for up to 30 seconds, then start the next exercise.

Dual-set 1: Double kettlebell front rack carry

The benefits: engages the lower abs, which leads to stronger knee drive through each step

The load: 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand tall holding a kettlebell in each hand at chest height, with the weight resting on the forearms. Walk 40 yards, keeping the kettlebells at chest height, for one rep. Recover for 30 to 90 seconds, then repeat this dual-set 2 more times (for 3 total sets).

Dual-set 2: Double kettlebell swings

The benefits: teaches each side of the body to work at once in unison and independently from the other, crucial for contralateral movements

The load: 50 to 70 percent of your one-rep max

Stand with feet just wider than hips. With each hand, hold a kettlebell on the ground about 12 inches in front of your feet, with your hips hinged behind you and your chest almost parallel to the ground. Lift the weights, swinging them between your legs and then up to chest height, for one rep. Complete 1 set of 15 reps. Rest for up to 30 seconds, then start the next exercise.

Dual-set 2: Push-ups with alternating rows

The benefits: builds thoracic mobility; engages the lats; improves shoulder mobility so you can fully drive your arms both forward and back while running

The load: 50 to 70 percent of your one-rep max

Get in a high plank position with a dumbbell in each hand, shoulders stacked over wrists, and feet together. Perform a push-up and at the top of the movement, row with the left arm. Repeat on the right side for one rep. Complete 1 set of 10 reps. Recover for 30 to 90 seconds, then repeat this dual-set 2 more times (for 3 total sets).