Here's the most important move you can add to your training: THE SQUAT
Squats are something we do every day. Every time you sit down in a chair, on the couch or on the toilet, you're performing a squat. It is the most functional and most used of all strength training exercises, yet most people end up squatting either incorrectly or inefficiently. Here's a run-down of how you should squat.
Sit back like you are sitting in a chair behind you without allowing your knees to drift in front of your toes. Basically, the first things to move should be your hips moving back towards that imaginary chair. Once your hips start moving back and your torso hinges forward, then your knees begin to bend. This helps prevent your knees from bending too far forward, placing pressure on the joints. This is also overuses the quads and underuses the glutes and hamstrings, contributing to muscle imbalances. Be careful not to arch your back. As you squat down, your weight should be in your heels, not in your toes. This will help engage your hamstrings and glutes and not overwork your quads.
Sit back until you feel your glutes, quads and hamstrings engage (about a 90 degree angle in your knees or more depending on the range of motion of your hips and knees) and come back up to standing, fully extending the hips open (starting position). Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions as part of your regular strength training routine, adding weight when this becomes easy.
A variation I often give to my runners is a squat with an overhead reach. I get a lot of runners often complaining of soreness in the upper back after an especially hard or long run. This is actually fairly common for runners. It is related to a number of things, one being our posture. When we get tired, we tend to one of two things: slouch (collapsing at the core and jutting the head out) or hyperextend the back (arching the back and jutting the head out). Either way, this puts a lot of pressure on the back and neck. It's important to strengthen the muscles of the upper back: the lower and mid trapezius muscles and the rhomboid muscles, along the spine at the base of the neck. Strengthening the entire core (both the front and the back) will also help keep our posture upright as we get tired. Here's a squat variation to help combat this upper back weakness:
Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed ahead. Keeping your weight in your heels, and sit back into your deep squat, as described above. Make sure your knees do not go beyond your toes. Holding your squat, raise both of your arms overhead. Make sure you’re not arching your back as you raise arms overhead. You also don't want to jut your head forward but keep your ears in line with your arms. Return to standing while lowering your arms to your sides. That's one rep. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps as part of your regular strength-training routine. When this move is mastered, you can add some dumbbells for added resistance.
Other squatting variations include split squats, sumo squats, single-leg squats and so many more. Be sure you've mastered the initial squat before adding weight or going to single leg.