3 reasons why you should add strength training to your running program

Back in the day, if you wanted to become a better runner you would simply run, and then run some more!

While this can be a useful strategy to some extent…

More and more, we now see recreational runners all the way to elite-level runners incorporating strength training into their weekly training routine and the outcomes have been impressive.

So here’s why you should be adding strength training into your training schedule…

Improved Running Economy —

This is defined as the oxygen uptake required at a given sub-maximal running velocity (1). In other words, the better your running economy (RE), the less oxygen you need to maintain your running pace.

In recent studies, both strength and resistance training have been shown to be effective means of improving RE in all levels of runners (1,2). So yes, even the weekend warrior can supplement their running with some resistance exercise and reap the rewards.

The great thing is, these demonstrated benefits don’t require months to years to attain but only several weeks before these changes can be achieved (3,4).

Improved Running Performance —

This is typically defined by the parameters of VO2 max, maximal anaerobic running velocity and power generation, which have all been shown to significantly improve in conjunction with a sound strength training programme.

In a few recent studies, direct improvements have been shown not only in short to intermediate distances but longer distances as well (e.g. 1,500 to 10,000 m) (2,4,5).

Once again, these changes in running performance were achieved in as little as two to three strength-training sessions per week (6).

Reduction in Running-related Injuries —

It’s difficult to determine the injury risk in running, due to so many potential variables at play. What we can do is take the data we have from common running injuries involving the knee, Achilles, shin and hip and consider the similarities among them, with one of the most prominent being reductions in strength.

Also, if we consider the main interventions in the management of running-related injuries, exercises focused on building strength, endurance and power have been highly considered first-line and recommended treatment (7,8,9,10).

We know running places considerable loads through our body, with the foot and ankle required to withstand loads of 6-8x our body weight at a jogging pace (11). In order to improve the body’s ability to handle these loads, we need to ensure we have sufficient capacity in the muscles attenuating the loads. What better way to do this than with a resistance training routine tailored to your running requirements?

Takeaways

Adding in 2-3 resistance training sessions into your running can improve running economy, running performance and make you more injury resilient. The benefits associated with resistance training can be seen in just weeks.

Apply this now by adding in some exercises into your training routine, focusing on key muscles involved in running such as: calf complex, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip stabilisers to improve physical capacity.

Thanks for reading.

Want to find out more about how strength training can optimise your running? Please feel free to reach out to me at luka@pinnaclehealthgroup.com.au or book a consultation with a Physiotherapist.

  1. Balsalobre-Fernandez C et al. (2016) Effects of strength training on running economy in highly trained runners: a systematic review with meta-analysis of controlled trials. J Strength Cond Rest, 30(8):2361-8
  2. Yamamoto LM et al. (2018) The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res; 22(6):2036-44
  3. Denadai BS et al. (2017) Explosive training and heavy weight training are effective for improving running economy in endurance athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med, 47(3):545-554
  4. Alcaraz-Ilbanez M & Rodriquez-Perez M (2018) Effects of resistance training on performance in previously trained endurance runners: a systematic review. J Sports Sci, 36(6):613-629
  5. Beattie K et al. (2014) The effects of strength training on performance in endurance athletes. Sports Med, 44(6):845-65
  6. Blagrove RC et al. (2018) Effects of strength training on the physiological determinants of middle- and long-distance running performance: a systematic review. Sports Med, 48(5):1117-1149
  7. Zouita S et al. (2016) Strength training reduces injury rate in elite young soccer players during one season. J Strength Cond Res, 30(5): 1295-307
  8. Santos TR et al. (2015) Effectiveness of hip muscle strengthening in patellofemoral pain syndrome patients: a systematic review. Braz J Phys Ther, 19(3):167-76
  9. Esculier JF et al (2018) Predictors of clinical success in runners with patellofemoral pain: secondary analyses of a randomized clinical trial. J Sci Med Sports, 21(8): 777-782
  10. Van der Vlist AC et al. (2019) Clinical risk factors for Achilles tendinopathy: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med
  11. Dorn DW et al. (2012) Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 1944-1956

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