Strength training is essential for runners to reduce the risk of injury, improve running economy and maximize performance.
In the past, the belief was that strength training will add too much muscle bulk which will inevitably have a negative impact on running performance. Recent evidence has refuted this claim and demonstrates how adding in proper strength programming can help the overall development of an endurance athlete.
Novice runners and lifters should start without weight to learn proper technique and emphasize movement characteristics with the guidance of a professional. As you progress through a program, strive towards incorporating increased load.
Strength training is beneficial throughout the entire year!
Strength Training Frequency:
2-3x per week off-season
1-2x per week while in-season
Most injuries that runners face involve soft tissue structures. Strengthening will help to improve the resiliency within your muscles, bones AND tendons.
To improve muscle, bone and tendon strength:
Perform multi-joint exercises with heavier load and less repetitions with variation in your exercise selection throughout your program.
Progress to lifting at least 80% of your 1RM
[1RM: The maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition]
There are many muscle groups that are important to focus on and strengthen, however, studies have demonstrated the importance of specific muscle groups for distance runners, including: the Calves, Quads and Glute Medius.
Examples of important exercise movements for runners:
Calf Raises, Squats, Romanian Dead Lifts, Lunges, Step Ups, Loaded Carries
Please Note: Strength training should be individualized!
You need to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and design a program based on where you are in your running journey, what your performance goals are and your history of injury. Runner’s should seek out guidance from a professional on how to safely lift weights and use a periodization process to properly progress their strength training throughout their running program.
First and Foremost: You should have clearance from your MD about participating in a strength program!
Execution of proper movement technique is key prior to lifting heavier loads. Here are a few examples of important exercise movements every runner should master:
The Hip Hinge
The Calf Raise
Once you become comfortable with each movement pattern, there are many different types of exercises that can be incorporated. The goal is to eventually build up to lifting heavier weight with less repetitions. Research demonstrates that lifting at least 80% of your 1RM with variation in exercise selection throughout your program helps to improve muscle, bone and tendon strength and resiliency!
Make sure you obtain clearance from your MD about participating in a strength program.
And remember that strength training should be individualized!!! Every runner should be evaluated by a professional to help build a strength program based on their needs, history of injury and unique running style. Seek out guidance to understand how to properly progress your strength training throughout your running program!