Strength Training for Runners is Important
You’ve heard us say it before (hopefully many times): strength training for runners is important to staying healthy and improving running performance. Here are a few key reasons why!
Decreases contact time with the ground/ improves running efficiency
Stabilizes the movement gained from stretching or mobility work
Strengthens and activates the muscles needed to run efficiently
CONTACT TIME is how long your foot is on the ground every time you land. Although statistics vary from person to person, generally a longer contact time can lead to excess loading and use of the muscles/joints more than they should or can tolerate. Doing running drills, improving loading patterns, and strengthening the muscles/tissues needed while running will help teach your body to land and explode back off efficiently, and therefore decreasing the amount of time on the ground. This will lead to improved speed and stride as well!
STABILIZATION is a fine balance between supporting our joints to prevent loss of control, but not becoming too stiff so that movement doesn’t happen. We need the right mix of mobility and stability to allow our muscles and joints to work the way they should. Doing specific mobility exercises that give our joints the movements they need to load and explode while running, followed up by stability training is the perfect combo. It makes sure we are not just over stretching, without controlling the new motion available!
STRENGTH TRAINING is mixed with the above stability work, but adding in consistent running specific strength workouts. This is where the long term gain is seen! The most important things with strength training as a runner are: (1) doing exercises in 3 planes of motion, (2) make the exercises look like running, and (3) add variation!!
- 3 dimensional movement means that we are moving forward/back, side to side, and rotating. We want to add all of these directions to our strength workouts! That means not just forward lunging, but side and rotational lunges. Not just neutral stance squats, but wide/narrow/staggered stance squats. No muscle in your body attaches to your bones and only moves in one plane of motion. Preparing those muscles to stabilize in any direction that might be thrown at it can help prevent injury by preparing the body to handle more stress put on it. And- it keeps those training seasons productive!
- Running specific strength training is just as simple of a concept as it sounds – make the movement mimic running! So yes, single leg movements are a great start. Physical therapists and knowledgeable strength coaches can then help make these motions further resemble what your body goes through when you run. This can include adding rotation (reaching across your body when you lunge or squat), multi directional single leg balance work (not just holding balance), and plyometric drills. This all better prepares your tissues and joints to have more strength when running, and therefore improving performance outcomes and helping keep you injury free.
- Variation is taking the two above principles and making sure you are doing all different types of exercises. By adding in 3 dimensions and making the movements running specific, you will have endless options of exercises to do! Make each workout have many different directions and reaches during the exercises, and that will vary the exercises to keep it dynamic and use as many muscles as possible.
Adding in these key points above will help give full potential to your muscles and body to complete your goal activity with improved resilience and less injury. It is very important to make sure you are practicing good form and awareness when doing these exercises, to make sure you are actually using the muscles we are targeting during the exercise and prevent bad habits from forming. For example, when doing glute strengthening- you should feel your glutes! As much as that might be a silly thing to think about, make sure you are feeling the goal muscles during the exercises otherwise you might be compensating and potentially hurting yourself in a different way.