Strength Training for Runners
Many runners believe that they don’t need strength training. It’s a common misconception for some to think that strength training will lead to extra muscle mass that will slow you down, or just the fact that strength training means spending less time outside running, and for many, this is a big no-no. Amongst the science community, we’ve known that running and strength training go hand in hand. However, many former collegiate cross country runners, who had a strength coach while in school, ditch the strength training after their careers are over because the folk lore amongst runners remains so strong.
Taking a closer look at the issue shows that strength training can improve running performance rather than take away from it. The scientific literature explains that strength training will improve the amount of force that a runner produces with each foot strike (1). This means that you use less energy to propel your body forward while running. Since your body is using less energy, this allows your cardiovascular system more time to send blood to your working muscles while getting rid of waste products that accumulate during exercise (1). This is often referred to as running economy, or simply the ability to run better. A lot of people forget that running is a skill. Learning this skill means that you’re a better runner – you can cover more distance while saving energy. Lastly, strength training can help improve a final “kick” that you may need at the end of a race.
The issue that many people face is that they simply don’t know how to strength train. In order to improve your running, you need to perform exercises to where your feet are on the ground. This means that machines like a leg extension or a leg curl need to be ditched for front squats and deadlifts. Furthermore, high repetition training is a means to make your legs sore and make you skip out of your runs, so avoid performing anything more than 5 repetitions.
If you’ve been struggling to get in shape or finish a certain distance, then strength training may be your missing key. A simple 2 day a week protocol is all that will be needed in order to improve your performance. Ignore the ‘bro science’ and pay attention to what the real science says – strength training and running go hand in hand.
1. Turner, Anthony Nicholas. “Training the Aerobic Capacity of Distance Runners: A Break From Tradition.” (2011) Strength and Conditioning Journal 33;2, 39-42