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Building Strength and Power for Karkloof Trails

The Karkloof trail series is known for its stunning landscapes and rugged terrains. With the opportunity to take on varied surfaces, runners are faced with unique challenges that require both mental and physical preparedness. In our commitment to assisting runners in achieving their personal bests, we've curated a set of strengthening exercises aimed at fortifying key muscle groups. These exercises not only build strength and stability but also ensure injury resilience specific to the demands of the Karkloof races.

Glute Activation

Why it’s important

Glute muscles provide power and stability to the hips and legs, crucial for the uphill climbs and demanding terrains in the Karkloof races.

  • Bridges: Lying on your back with knees bent, squeeze the glutes to lift the hips, hold, and lower. Repeat 15 times.

  • Single-leg Deadlifts: Holding a weight, bend at the hip and extend one leg backwards. Return and switch legs. Perform 10 reps on each leg.

Quadricep and Hamstring Strengthening

Quadriceps and hamstrings work together to provide stability and control during running, particularly in fast descents.

  • Lunges: Stepping forward into a lunge, making sure the knee stays over the ankle, return to standing and switch legs. Perform 12 reps for each leg.

  • Hamstring Curls: Using a gym ball, place your heels on the ball, lift your hips, and curl the ball towards you. Extend and repeat 12 times.

Core Stability

A strong core assists in maintaining a proper running form, providing stability, and minimizing the risk of overuse injuries.

  • Planks: Hold a plank position, keeping the body straight for 30-60 seconds.

  • Russian Twists: Seated on the floor, hold weight and rotate the torso to each side, performing 15 twists on each side.

Ankle and Calf Strengthening for Strength and Power

The varied terrain of the Karkloof races necessitates strong ankles and calves to prevent strains and sprains.

  • Heel Raises: Standing tall, raise onto the toes, hold for a second, and lower slowly. Perform 15-20 reps.

  • Ankle Circles: Rotate the ankle in both directions, 10 circles each way.

Plyometric Training: Explosive Strength for Karkloof Race Performance

At Mindful Runner we call this one QuadFire

Plyometric exercises are a crucial component of training for trail runners, especially when preparing for demanding races like the Karkloof series. They enhance the body's ability to exert force quickly, improving both strength and efficiency. The following plyometric exercises use body weight only and are designed to target different aspects of a trail runner's needs.

  1. Squat Jumps

  • Why: Builds explosive strength in the legs and core.

  • How: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, perform a squat, then explosively jump up, landing softly. Repeat.

  1. Lateral Jumps

  • Why: Enhances lateral movement and agility.

  • How: Stand on one leg, jump sideways onto the other leg, and repeat. Maintain a rhythmic flow.

  1. Box Jumps

  • Why: Increases power in the lower body and improves coordination.

  • How: Stand in front of a box or platform, squat down, and explosively jump onto the box. Step down and repeat.

  1. Split Jumps

  • Why: Focuses on strength and balance in a movement that simulates running mechanics.

  • How: Start in a lunge position, explosively jump and switch legs in mid-air, landing in a lunge with the opposite leg forward. Repeat.

Perform 5 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise, ensuring proper form and adequate rest between sets.

Plyometrics add an exciting dimension to your Karkloof race preparation. By focusing on explosive strength and agility, it complements the strength-building exercises, offering a well-rounded approach to training.

Combined Strength and Plyometric Routine for Karkloof Race Preparation

Integrating the following exercise routine into your training schedule can substantially enhance your running performance. By focusing on power and agility, it's designed to not only make you feel stronger on the trails but also minimize the risk of overuse injuries and falls.

Consider dedicating 40 minutes to this workout twice a week, ideally on days when your training load is lighter. Performing this routine before your run allows you to begin the session with a fresh body, helping you maintain good form and alignment. The investment in this targeted exercise practice may well lead to a more resilient and responsive running experience.


5 minutes of light jogging and stretching

Strength Training Segment:

Bridges: 2 sets of 15 reps for glute activation.

Single-leg Deadlifts: 2 sets of 10 reps (each leg).

Lunges: 2 sets of 12 reps (each leg) for quadriceps and hamstring strengthening.

Hamstring Curls: 2 sets of 12 reps.

Core Stability Segment:

Planks: 2 sets of 30-60 seconds.

Russian Twists: 2 sets of 15 reps (each side) for core strength.

Ankle and Calf Strengthening Segment:

Heel Raises 2 sets of 15-20 reps.

Ankle Circles: 2 sets of 10 reps (each direction).

Plyometric Training Segment:

Squat Jumps: 5 sets of 12 reps for explosive leg strength.

Lateral Jumps: 5 sets of 12 reps (each side) for agility.

Box Jumps: 5 sets of 12 reps for lower body power.

Split Jumps: 5 sets of 12 reps for improving running mechanics.

Cool Down

5 minutes of stretching and deep breathing

This twice-weekly 40-minute session is tailored to equip you with the strength, stability, and explosive power essential for the Karkloof races. It harmoniously combines crucial strength exercises with dynamic plyometric drills, forming a holistic approach to your training.

As with all workout routines, proper form and listening to your body are key. Should you need additional guidance, feel free to reach out to us at Mindful Runner.


Fred Richardson - Mindful Runner

More about Fred: With a wealth of experience in trail and ultra-running, Fred Richardson founded Mindful Runner, a platform equipped with a team of expert coaches guiding runners of all abilities. Prioritizing both physical training and mental resilience, Mindful Runner helps athletes unlock their full potential. Whether you're a beginner or an ultra-marathoner, the platform provides valuable insights, strategies, and a deeper understanding of trail and ultra-running. For anyone looking to embark on or advance their running journey, is an invaluable resource, acting as a guiding beacon in the running community and a perfect place to find your ideal running coach.

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