Question: I am a serious runner and have heard that strength training is important if you want to improve. Could you discuss this issue in one of your columns?

Answer: It is quite clear that strength training helps every athlete; however, the type of training is also quite specific to the event the athlete competes in. For instance, linemen on a football team need a program that develops both bulk and strength, whereas golfers need lower body and arm strength but need to be careful about developing too much bulk in the upper body. In this article, I will describe a series of strength exercises recommended specifically for runners that was published in the December 1994 issue of Runner's World.1. Hip hikers: Stand sideways on a step or low bench with your weight on your left leg and your right leg hanging off the edge. Keeping both knees locked, lower your right heel toward the floor by tilting your right hip down. Then, raise the right hip as high as it will go. Do this about 12 times and switch sides. Be sure to keep the supporting knee straight and move the foot up and down with a movement of the hip.

2. Resisted leg swings: Anchor a piece of tubing about knee height. Attach the other end to the left ankle, far enough away that the tubing is stretched when your left thigh is raised and parallel to the floor. Keeping the weight on your right leg, move the left leg in what feels like a normal running motion for a set of 10 reps without touching your foot to the ground. Change legs and repeat.

3. Toe presses: Stand on a small bench or step with your weight on the ball of your right foot with the left foot at about ankle height. Lower your heel below the level of the bench and then raise it as high as you can. Repeat the exercise 15 times and switch legs.

4. Toe pulls: Stand barefoot or in socks with your feet about 2 inches apart. Shift your weight slightly onto your left foot while flexing the toes of this foot upward. At the same time, pull the toes of your right foot downward and back. Your right foot should slide forward 1 to 2 inches as you pull with your right toes. Now, shift the weight to the right and reverse the process. Repeat this left-right cycle until each foot has pulled about 30 times.

5. Bench step-ups: Begin from a standing position on top of a bench of about knee height. Let your right foot hang freely, slightly behind the body, and slowly lower it until the toes touch the ground. Return to the starting position by straightening the left leg. Maintain an upright posture throughout and keep your hands at your sides. Repeat 10 times and change legs.

6. One-leg squat: Stand with your legs about a stride length apart with the back toe on a bench or block about 6 to 8 inches high. Bend the front leg, and lower your body until the front knee is bent about 90 degrees - then return to starting position. Keep your trunk upright and hands at your sides. Repeat 10 times and switch legs.

I will describe additional exercises next week.