strength training equipment for ultrarunners

Recommended Home Strength Training Equipment for Ultrarunners

In a previous blog post, I outlined why periodized, purposeful strength training can be beneficial for runners, at any and all phases of the training season. If you have decided you want to include some strength training into your training plan, but either don’t want to join a gym or would like to transition to home training, you might be wondering what home equipment you should focus on. Gym memberships can provide a lot of variation and options for equipment. However, you can set up an effective home gym with less equipment than you probably realize. Over the years I have accumulated equipment and now have a very functional, fun and effective at-home gym! Here’s my guide to the pieces of strength training gear I recommend for ultrarunners, including options at several budget levels.

Maybe you already have some equipment but need a few pieces to complete your home gym, or perhaps you are just getting started on a limited budget and want to get the most bang for both your available space and budget. In either case, the following simple, effective and time/space saving options allow me to challenge myself and work on being a more durable runner.

Home Strength Training Equipment for Ultrarunners

These tools offer great versatility and can fit most budgets. As a bonus, many of these are great for small spaces, too.

Dumbbells

These classics take up less space than a barbell and plates, and dumbbells offer great flexibility for everything from rows and overhead presses to squats, lunges and other lower body exercises. You can pick up a few dumbbells inexpensively (in most cases a set of 20lb dumbbells are a great place to start for many). A more expensive but definitely versatile option is a set of the adjustable ones.

dumbbells

Kettlebells

Like dumbbells, kettlebells offer a lot of options and require little space. Kettlebells can be a preferred option over dumbbells for certain exercises like kettlebell swings and suitcase deadlifts. Based on your experience with kettlebells, you may look to starting with anything from a 20-30 pound bell. There are many variations of exercises that use either one or two kettlebells, just as there are many variations using one or two dumbbells. That said, if you are on a budget and only want one item, choose a single kettlebell over a single dumbbell.

kettlebell

Mini Bands

Mini Bands are small, looped bands that deliver an incredible punch of value in a small and affordable package. They are great for monster band walks, rows, plank variations and other core options. They also travel well, which is a great bonus!

 

Tubing

Tubing is similar to bands, in that they are made of rubber, but tubing is not looped. Instead, tubing can be found with or without handles at each end and can be used for things like overhead presses, chest press, and rows, among other exercises and movements. Some tubing options can be attached to a stationary object or door, and come in equivalent measures of resistance, such as 25, 30 or 40 lbs.

Stability Ball

Rather than replacing your desk chair with a large stability ball (because most people end up slouching and doing more harm than good over time), make better use of it for purposeful strength training. From a plank position with the front of your legs on top of the ball, rolling the ball forward as you bring your knees to your chest is a great movement for your core and can be combined with pushups. A pike variation of this movement puts even greater pressure on your upper body. A stability ball can also provide a more advanced platform for presses with dumbbells or tubing.

Bench/Step/Platform

If you have room for a bench or platform, either can be useful implements for step ups and step downs. You can also use them for one-armed rows with a dumbbell, and a platform to sit or lay on for various types of presses and overhead lifts. Step ups and step downs can be done with smaller steps, too (see image). For larger and more advanced steps consider platforms or benches that are 12-18 inches high, maybe up to 24 inches.

TRX or similar suspension training system

Suspension trainers – like the familiar brand TRX – are extremely versatile and functional tools for your home gym. These systems utilize your bodyweight, or a portion of your bodyweight based on how you adjust the length and angle of the straps, to offer multiple options for full body exercises in a small compact package. You will need to be able to hang the suspension trainer from an overhead mount or doorframe. These also travel really well, too, and can be used outdoors from trees, goalposts, or even high fences!

Balance Board/BOSU

A balance board or BOSU can be good for core and single leg balance work in order to improve proprioception and body awareness. They can be used to create greater strength and stability in the feet and ankles, but keep in mind that introducing instability or a balance challenge to movements like squats, single leg deadlifts, presses, etc. changes the priority or purpose of the movement. Start by doing these exercises on a stable surface when strength is the goal. When adding the balance challenge, you will likely reduce the weight or resistance so the movement is less about generating maximum force and more about maintaining balance and technique as you move.

 

Sliders

Sliders are typically padded on one side and slippery plastic on the other. This allows you to put the sliders under your hands, knees, or feet and then slide them on the carpet or floor. They are a great way to get smooth, core focused work, along with lower and upper body options.


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Strength Training Equipment for Your Budget

Now that you know some options for home gym essentials, what are the best choices for your budget? Let’s dive in!

Home Gym Budget: $50

A medium and/or  heavy mini band, a stability ball, and a 20-25 pound kettlebell.

Home Gym Budget: $100

Start with the options above, plus a set of sliders, a heavier kettlebell or a set of dumbbells to increase to your weight options.

Home Gym Budget: $200


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Two hundred dollars will get you the above plus a balance board or BOSU ball, OR a step/bench. Alternatively, you can invest in a suspension training system at this price point.

Home Gym Budget: $200+

If you have more than $200 to invest, increase the variations of weights you have with different dumbbells and kettlebells. A quality set of adjustable dumbbells will run $400 or more.

High Tech Options

Although far more expensive than the options discussed above, there are new at-home strength options that take up less space than traditional home gym machines and connect with online and app-driven programming. Options include: Tonal, Mirror, Tempo Fit, and Echelon Reflect.

Final Thought: Go Treasure Hunting!

Even as a strength training professional, I must admit to sourcing gym equipment from yard sales and online markets. If you go this route, inspect the equipment and use common sense. That said, many great, safe and nearly-new pieces of equipment can be found at a substantial discount through a little treasure hunting.

By Sarah Scozzaro,
CTS Expert Coach, NSCA-PT, NASM PES

Sarah Scozzaro earned her M.S. in Exercise Science with a concentration in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention, as well as certifications in personal training and Restorative Exercise, to better serve athletes and keep them running strong and healthy. She has run all over the world and worked with athletes of all levels and experience, including an opportunity to serve as a consultant with an NFL team for four seasons on restorative work, injury prevention and performance enhancement. 

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