Strength Training for Runners

Strength Training for Runners

Most runners believe that in order to run better or faster they just need to do more running. The truth is though if you are serious about improving your performance on the road you need to vary your training by adding more strength and mobility work. 

 

The need for a varied strength and conditioning program is just as important for runners as any other sport. However, runners are often put off by this idea thinking that weightlifting will make them bulky and slow as well as taking precious time away from the road or trail. Every sports person from soccer players to swimmers and surfers to skiers are heavily involved in gym work, runners should be no different. Like everything it just needs to be programmed intelligently and with the goals of the particular athlete in mind.

The ultimate goal is not that you start on your way to looking like Arnold but that you become the best runner you can be by getting stronger, more powerful and less likely to get injured. In the long run this means more time doing what you love to do.

A well designed gym program for runners will help in two main ways:

INJURY REDUCTION/PREVENTION

Running is a movement with a very short range of motion through the hips, ankles and shoulders. The repetitive nature of the sport over time shortens the muscles and tendons around these joints. This creates imbalances and poor postural habits often manifesting themselves in overuse injuries. Often we see the victims being seen in the knees and lower back. A proper strength and mobility training program will look at addressing those imbalances before injuries can take over.

Performing the exercises correctly through a full range of motion will help to stabilize the joints that need to be stabilized and mobilize the joints that need to be mobile.

Strength training also improves bone density and lean muscle mass, which helps absorb the impact of road running.

PERFORMANCE

It’s a common belief that only running will make you run faster, but not adding strength training into your routine is doing your overall training program a disservice, if your goal is to get faster. Weight training helps performance by improving running economy in the following ways.

Power

As you become a faster runner you actually spend less time in contact with the ground. That means you need to produce more force with each stride. If you start to look at each stride as a tiny jump it is easier to understand the idea of needing more force production. To increase your force production you need to increase your relative strength and you need to train for power to help apply that force into the ground as quickly as possible.

This is achieved by adding heavier resistance training to increase strength and then performing ballistic movements to help with your power production. It is important to look carefully at the athletes volume. Repetitions should be left in lower ranges.

Core

Core strength and stabilization is vital for a runner. The upper and lower body act independently of each other with the core acting as the link between both. The upper body movement is a counter balance to the lower body. The idea is that your torso remains stabilized while the limbs are in movement. 

If we don’t have a stable core you will begin to leak energy through inefficient movement patterns. If we do not have a strong with a properly sequencing core musculature you will most likely also have poor posture. The most common poor posture habits are rounded shoulders in the upper body and pelvis tilting forward towards your toes in the lower body.

The rounded shoulders will leave you finding it harder to breath deeper as well as affecting the counter balance between the upper and lower body movements.

The affect of the postural issues on the lower body will also be seen in your hips. If your lower spine and pelvis are out of whack your hip extension will be shortened. This means you will not be utilizing the glutes, the largest muscles in your body, to their maximum potential. This will lead to decreased running economy and an increased likelihood of injury. You may also find that your hips drop or raise from side to another. Another common postural defect seen in many runners which will lead to energy leaks and the potential of over use injury.

WHAT TO WORK ON?

A solid program should mean that you can get the maximum benefit from the minimum amount of time in the gym. Remember the idea is not to turn into a weightlifter but to become a better runner. In fact you don’t even have to lift weights, although to really progress it is best to start adding resistance.  

Your strength and conditioning program should follow a basic template;

Mobility work – concentrate on bringing joints through full ranges of movement with special attention given to the hips and ankles.

Power work – done with low level bodyweight plyometrics and basic medicine ball drills.

Strength work – ideally done with weighted compound movements, unilateral or single sided moves have the most transfer to runners.

Accessory work – using lighter weights and higher reps work on areas of muscle imbalances.

Core work – Forget about crunches and sit ups. Concentrate on stabilization with anti extension, anti flexion and anti rotation exercises. Excellent core exercises for runners are deadbugs. Once you have developed adequate stabilization you can start to work on rotation exercises.

If this all sounds a little to complicated there's really no need to worry. That's why we are here. You concentrate on your running. Our Functional Strength and Mobility classes in Inwood, Manhattan will take care of you.