Strength training for runners is important for many aspects related to performance, health, and injury prevention. Two misconceptions with resistance training for runners are a decrease in running-specific performance, and the detrimental effect of increasing muscle mass. Thus, strength training is commonly neglected in a runners overall comprehensive performance program. Depending on what level of running athlete you are, strength training can be incorporated through a wide range of methods including body weight exercises, resistance bands, and free weights. Strength training can benefit your running performance by:
- Increasing or maintaining lean body mass
- Working on muscular imbalances
- Improving biomechanics related to running
- Improving race or training performance
Benefits of Strength Training For Runners
Biomechanics and Running Economy
Running economy is defined as the oxygen or energy cost to run at a given speed. Through strength training, running economy has been shown to increase. In theory this means that a runner will expend less energy when running, or can operate at a lower intensity. Strength training can also increase biomechanical efficiency by training the legs to be stronger, which can reduce fatigue and its associated impairments to running form and performance.
Reduced Risk of Injuries
Running athletes can expect to absorb between (1.5-3x) their body weight in ground reaction forces while striking the ground. Multiplying this by thousands of repetitions, the forces are constantly absorbed from connective tissue and muscles of the lower body. Strength training can prepare and strengthen the lower body to handle the demand of repeated force absorption, potentially decreasing injuries related to running.
Increase Muscular Activation & Coordination
Running in general is a repetitive movement working similar muscles leading to muscular imbalances over time. By incorporating strength training exercises, runners can work on muscular imbalances that are present in ways that only running cannot. Strength training can also increase muscular activation and coordination of specific muscle groups, either in isolation or coordinated movements.
Strength Training Workout For Runners
This exercise will help to work on single leg strength and coordination. By having the back leg on the bench we are removing the stability aspect of the exercise to focus on leg drive.
Seated Cable Row
Posture is important for running. By working on exercises that strengthen the posterior (back) side of the trunk we can improve posture and strength.
Exercise Ball Pull-In
This movement works on your core strength, which is extremely important for running. If your core gets fatigued during running, your mechanics may be altered, leading to a decrease in performance.
Medicine Ball Pushups
This exercise helps to work on upper body strength related to the chest, arms, and core. By incorporating this exercise runners can keep their upper bodies strong and functional.
Single Leg Deadlift
This exercise is unilateral or single leg exercise. The single leg deadlift targets your glutes and hamstrings, which are on the posterior or back side of your legs.
This exercise primarily targets your core, but also can improve your shoulder stability.
Strength training does not have to be complex. Running athletes around the world can benefit from doing basic resistance training and body weight exercises. The more advanced athlete may want to consider utilizing a comprehensive strength training program that uses a scientific approach to exercise prescription. By doing so, they will improve their economy, injury prevention, and overall performance.