Strength Training for Runners

Why runners should incorporate strength / resistance training into their regime:

Strength Training for RunnersOver the years I have worked with a number of runners and other endurance athletes such as cyclists. The most common thing I hear from runners is ‘I don’t need to do weights on my legs because I do enough running’. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. During our Personal Training qualifications, we discuss how resistance training can be adapted for prehabilitation or injury prevention, performance and also during rehabilitation. Although a runner may feel they are ‘exercising’ their legs enough, what they are not doing is working the muscle through the full range of movement, directly strengthening the muscle and connective tissue or improving stability in the joint e.g. the knee.

Running is a great form of exercise for helping with weight management, de-stressing, improving circulatory and respiratory health as well as reducing the likelihood of coronary heart disease and other medical conditions. Having said this, running is a repetitive activity with a repetitive strain on the joints and limbs through the constant impact. When a runner becomes fatigued or adopts a poor running technique then they can become susceptible to injury. One thing we focus on during the consultation phase of our Personal Training courses is posture and gait analysis. We also discuss ways of correcting mild posture concerns and poor running technique as a result of that gait analysis.

Strength / resistance training can help runners reduce the risk of injury by:

  • Improving posture. E.g. A severely kyphotic posture which could be a result of sitting at the desk all day or standing over a workbench all day would make it harder to breathe when running but also put a lot of strain on the thoracic and lumbar spine. This posture would also inevitably result in a poor running technique and possible injury. Resistance training and focussing on the upper back development could help improve this posture and inevitably their running style.
  • Non impact weight training (e.g. no plyometrics) would reduce the impact and trauma going through major joints such as knees and as a result it would help them recover between sessions.
  • Muscular imbalances. As well as the posture concern above, if one leg is stronger than the other, the weaker leg could potentially fatigue earlier resulting in a trip, fall and an injury. Resistance training could help reduce the imbalances between limbs and resulting in a more stable runner.
  • By improving strength and power the runner’s performance would also improve naturally. Especially when tackling those big, long, never ending hills.
  • Joint stability. By improving the strength of a muscle through it’s full range of movement and equally (reducing any imbalances) the joint itself will become stronger. This will reduce any potential injuries when running up kerbs etc.
  • Improving body composition. As well running, resistance training can help burn away that unwanted fat and potentially make us lighter. This is great news for runners as there’s less trauma and impact going through the joints causing less wear and tear. BONUS!

As you can see there are several benefits of weight training for runners. Some of my favourites include:

  • Excellent for developing hamstring strength which is usually weaker when compared to the quadriceps and also for stabilising the knee and ankle joints.
  • Balance work. For example, by balancing on wobble boards etc. it will help improve the strength and stability around the ankles which is definitely useful when running on stones or uneven surfaces.
  • Again these are great for developing leg strength to support the runner’s bodyweight when running and improve joint stability at the knees and hips.
  • Weighted core exercises. These are great for developing core strength and stability. Quite often in runners their core becomes fatigued as they progress through their run. This could result in poor balance and a fall or injury.

There are many more examples than just these above which we discuss in detail on our Personal Training courses. However, hopefully they give you an idea of why runners shouldn’t neglect strength training and more specifically neglect strength training their legs.

I hope you enjoyed this short article. For more please visit our blog page here: FLM Training Blog

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