It's easy to overlook strength training for runners. The notion that strength-focused exercises will bulk you up and slow you down or take time away from running justify this avoidance. The reality, though, is that stronger runners are more efficient and faster. Implementing strength training for runners is about adding it in, not adding it on. In fact, running-specific strength training is one of the best ways to positively influence your performance.
Benefits of Strength Training
Running demands a lot from your body; after all, the impact of each stride can be up to five times your body weight! A stronger body is more resilient to these repetitive forces produced with each foot strike, and strength training enhances stability and structural integrity. When skeletal muscles properly support joints, connective tissue and bones, your chance of injury is significantly reduced.
Running seems simple at first glance, but deeper examination reveals a complex movement pattern. Forward propulsion is initiated with one foot pushing backward and the other coming forward, while arms and shoulders swing in opposite directions to counter and maintain balance. At the same time, the core attempts to maintain stability while allowing the diaphragm and lungs to expand and promote airflow. Poor posture threatens this movement pattern's efficiency. Strength training helps by bolstering good running posture and limiting excessive or wasted movement, making your running gait more efficient.
Developing a Strength-Focused Routine
Work in a strength workout alongside your existing run schedule twice a week. At some point during your run, perform the following circuit:
- Body-weight squats
- Walking lunges
Go through this circuit 2–3 times with no rest between the individual exercises. Be sure, though, to give yourself a minute or two of rest before starting each circuit. Once your strength workout is complete, finish your run.
When you feel this routine's effects starting to plateau, include more strength training in the form of cross-training. Go through the same or a similar circuit, but start adding resistance to each exercise by incorporating dumbbells or bands when appropriate. When you outgrow this option, it's time to consider finding a gym and performing the same exercises with heavier weights and barbells.
Strength training upgrades a runner's form and efficiency. It makes you more resistant to injury so you can train longer, faster and harder. Truly, there are no downsides.
Corbin Lang is the head track and field coach and a math teacher at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He is a certified Level 2 track coach by USA Track & Field. For almost 20 years, he has produced numerous individual and team league champions.