Resistance Training for Runners
Running is a very popular form of exercise due to many factors. Running is convenient and there is virtually zero cost (other than a decent pair of shoes) and barely any skill development needed in order to begin participating. Many people get into running and stay with it as their main form of exercise because of the numerous benefits they have received from this practice.
This blog is for the runners – particularly those who have clocked many miles but have yet to get into strength training. Many of our clients have come to us with experience in running but some of those clients have also had injuries due to many hours of high-impact activity. Frequently, runners who do not strength train are looking for an answer to acute or chronic injuries in ligaments, bones, muscles, or joints. Listed below are the benefits of resistance training for runners – and our argument that all runners should be doing some type of weight-bearing exercise in their training.
Increased Bone Mineral Density
One of the main benefits of resistance training for runners is injury prevention. Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bone by increasing bone mineral density. Weight training will help strengthen the internal structures of the body – joints, muscles, and connective tissues, which will help to prevent common injuries accrued through running.
Runners, even elite runners, can improve running performance by generating force more quickly if they include strength training in their routine. By improving efficiency through strength training, runners are able to generate more force into the ground, which means running at a higher intensity. This is due in part to enhanced motor unit recruitment patterns. Think about plyometric training. How do people train to increase power? What is needed before proper plyometric training can be implemented? Strength. Strength must be present in order to produce power. “The running gait cycle is one of the purest forms of all plyometric activities, having been described as a series of alternating hops from one leg to another. During the participation of athletic competition, the athlete must produce strong and efficient (economical) propulsive forces for optimal sprinting and distance running performance.” (Panariello & Hansen, 2011)
Improved Running Economy
What does improved running economy mean? Basically, runners who strength train have been shown to run faster over the same distance or longer at the same speed. Multiple studies, new and old, have been done on running economy and strength training in runners. Check out these resources if you are interested:
THIS study from 1995
THIS study from 2008
THIS study from 2016
THIS study from 2016 which ALSO shows no additional hypertrophy (muscle size increases) in those who resistance trained
Muscles to Strengthen
The musculature of the lower body is obviously important when considering a strength training program for runners. The glutes, hamstring, quads, and core musculature should all be worked in a basic training program. Hamstring injuries are one of the more common muscular injuries, especially among sprinters. Therefore, the hamstrings are one of the most important muscles for runners to strengthen. The hamstrings role is to flex the knee and extend the hip. During higher speed sprints, the main role of the hamstrings is to absorb knee flexion while initiating hip extension. At high speeds, this causes a lot of stress to the hamstrings which makes the runner more prone to injury. Eccentrically training the hamstrings allows one to increase strength in the hamstrings where it is most vulnerable while running. Core strength is also important for runners. A strong core will improve better posture for long distance running.
A Few of the Best Exercises for Runners:
-Romanian Deadlifts (any version)
-Glute Ham Raises
Our conclusion for runners: add regular resistance training to your workouts in order to prevent injury and improve performance.
Heather & Katie
The Power Couple
Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Santos-Concejero, J., & Grivas, G. V. (2016). Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(8), 2361-2368. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001316
Beattie, K., Carson, B. P., Lyons, M., Rossiter, A., & Kenny, I. C. (2016). The Effect of Strength Training on Performance Indicators in Distance Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001464
Johnston, R. E., Quinn, T. J., Kertzer, R., & Vroman, N. B. (1995). Improving Running Economy Through Strength Training. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING JOURNAL Strength and Conditioning, 17(4), 7. doi:10.1519/1073-6840(1995)0172.3.co;2
Panariello, R. A., & Hansen, D. (2011, March 31). Preparation of the Athlete for the Running Gait Cycle During the Rehabilitation of the Post-Operative ACL Reconstructed Knee. Retrieved August 03, 2016, from https://bretcontreras.com/post-operative-acl-reconstructed-knee/
Støren, Ø, Helgerud, J., Støa, E. M., & Hoff, J. (2008). Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(6), 1087-1092. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e318168da2