One of the most overlooked protocols for runners is strength training.
The majority of runners just, well, run.
And while this is naturally the best way to improve endurance and speed, including other training protocols into your workout regime such and strength training (often referred to as resistance training) is a great way to further improve running performance and efficiency, prevent injury, and
make you an altogether more balanced athlete.
In this article I’m going to address a few of these benefits in more detail.
Unfortunately, injury and running are synonymous - indeed, various statistics reveal that around two thirds of runners experience an injury every year, and 82% will pick up an injury during their lifetime.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of injury is to incorporate some strength training.
By strengthening your muscles and stabilising joints you can help correct certain structural imbalances that may occur naturally when your run, such as left-right side differences and unequal knee flexion, and decrease chronic pain and nagging joint discomfort.
Naturally, strengthening your legs around the knees is extremely important, as this will help prevent common injuries such Runner’s Knee and Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).
Multiple studies have shown that supplementing your runs with strength training can go a long way to improve the economy of your running technique, as this will effectively engage your core and lower body.
This is especially important if you’re running longer distances, as maintaining a good posture towards the end of a marathon when you are extremely fatigued can prove to be quite the struggle, and this is where an efficient form can really make a difference to performance.
Using heavier resistance workouts for your legs can help you build explosive power, making you considerably faster as you dig deep for that agonising sprint finish.
In addition, lean muscle gains will improve the way your body uses energy and oxygen, and, what’s more, the right strength routine will also help you lose fat and improve body composition, and eliminating ‘drag’ and being lighter on your feet will always give you an added boost.
Incorporating strength training into your weekly regime doesn’t mean living in the gym – just 10 to 20 minutes of basic strength work a session will go a long way to keeping you injury free.
Perform these workouts two to three times a week on rest days or on lighter running days.
The following are some basic strength exercises which you can start including in your regime right away.
Squats are, without doubt, the single best exercise there is when it comes to strengthening the lower body.
In addition to targeting a huge range of muscle groups, including your glutes, hams, quads, core, they also help strengthen your knees.
Exercises to try: Bodyweight squat, dumbbell squat, goblet squat, wall squat
Performing the plank is an extremely effective way of building strength in your core – that is, your abs, obliques, hips and lower back.
Targeting these muscles will help you build cast iron strength to balance and support your running posture over long distances, in addition to helping with breathing.
Exercises to try: Plank, side plank, dolphin plank
Performing lateral movements – which will move you in a different plane than you are used to - will help you improve joint stability and overall balance, as well as improving strength in the muscles that are often neglected in runners.
Exercises to try: Lateral lunges, lying double leg raises, skater squats
Many runners will neglect their upper body when training – however targeting this area (chest, arms, shoulders) will help you build power and improve speed that can be invaluable to your running performance.
Exercises to try: Pushups, decline pushups, pushups on a ball
Ultimately, whatever your discipline, be it sprinting, middle distance or marathon running, or whether you are new or old to sport, incorporating strength training into your regime will enable you to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
So, runners, don’t be a stranger to the weight room – you never know, you might even enjoy it!
I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear from you, just drop me a comment below!
About the author
Henry is a fitness junkie with a passion for distance running, martial arts and strength training. You can find him blogging over at GymTalk and Running Junkies.
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