The Importance of Strength Training for Runners

18th December 2019
Strength training is one of the most important factors in any sport discipline. However, in some sports such as running, people usually find working on their endurance a lot more important.

As many of us know, strength is one of the most influential physical qualities in any sports discipline. However, in some sports such as cycling and running, it isn’t allocated the importance it deserves. In today’s article, we’ll discover the importance of strength training for runners, as well as the benefits it provides for athletic preparation.

Why is strength training important for runners?

When you practice running or prepare for any mid or long-distance competition, working on your endurance usually holds more weight than strength training. However, it’s important to stop and analyze this subject.

The endurance we’re talking about generally depends directly on the amount of strength we apply per time unit. This means that if we’re able to exert a greater strength per time unit in each step, it’ll be possible to generate more strength with every stride without increasing our cardiovascular effort. This way, we’ll be more efficient and resistant to the same effort.

Therefore, if your goal is to make progress in a discipline such as running, where the differential factor is endurance, strength training will allow you to progress and help to reach the goals you set.

The benefits of strength training for runners

As we mentioned above, strength training will allow runners to progress on their training and achieve a set of benefits at the same time. Let’s look into them:

  • Endurance increase and fatigue decrease. Being more efficient will help to improve your endurance and diminish both central and peripheral fatigue. At the same time, working to boost your core will allow you to gain the aforementioned efficiency, maintaining an adequate posture during competitions and training.
  • Improves racing speed. Adequate strength training can be a great step to improving and increasing your pace. It also has the advantage of being a very ‘appreciative’ training, as you’ll notice faster results.
A competitive runner training to improve his strength and endurance

  • A smaller risk of injuries. To reduce the risk of suffering from any kind of injury, it’s fundamental to strengthen the core area (abs and lumbar), as well as the lower body (mainly the quads, glutes and hamstrings). This will help you to maintain better posture control when running. A better posture means you’ll be able to alleviate any lumbar discomfort that arises as a consequence of this practice.
  • It’ll help you to lose or maintain your weight. When you do strength training, the muscle growth that happens will stimulate your metabolism; this way, it’ll increase the number of calories that you burn.

What’s the best way to strength train?

If you follow an adequate and well-designed strength training program, you can develop the exact amount of muscle you need and increase your muscle power. This last concept is closely related to the development of muscle fibers, which allows your ideal nervous responses.

To get the proper strength training for running, it’s very important to respect the progression training principle.

Types of exercises runners can use

There’s a multitude of methods to practice strength training, but we’ll focus on those that are closely related to the particular goals that you want to achieve. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about four types of exercises that will help you to work on the specific strength you need for running.

Isometrics

Isometric exercises are a type of strength training in which the muscle position and angle remain the same throughout the whole execution. Therefore, they’re static exercises that require a maximum effort.

Their execution will continue until you’re no longer able to maintain the position because of the fatigue you’ll experience. With this type of exercise, you can perform movements that aren’t so intense but maintain it for longer periods of time. For runners, it’s important to practice isometric exercises that target their backs, abs, and legs.

A girl doing isometric exercises to increase her strenght when running

Plyometrics

When we talk about plyometrics, we’re focusing more on a type of workout that’s directed towards performing explosive actions; this can include speed, strength or rapidity. One of the big advantages of this method is that anyone can practice it. You can even do most of these exercises in the comfort of your own home, performing jumps, swings, etc. During the execution of these movements, the muscles will follow a cycle of contraction and stretching.

A runner doing different strength training exercises

Slope work

Performing exercise sets on slopes will help to work on the aerobic capacity and power of the athlete. In this type of exercise, we’ll mainly use the strength from the lower body. Likewise, we must consider the type of slope. If it’s a very steep slope, you can damage the lumbar area by interfering with the correct body posture.

Gym exercises

We should be very careful when working with gym equipment. It’s important to focus on preventing injuries or improving your technique instead of gaining muscle mass. This will cause you to be less resistant and slower. Performing just a couple of weekly strength sessions in the gym will be enough to work on your muscle power.

A female runner using the leg press machine at the gym as a part of her strenght training routine

Conclusions about strength training

As we’ve been able to see, strength is fundamental in the preparation of any athlete. Working to improve it will allow you to greatly develop the main physical quality that intervenes in this discipline, which is endurance.

Therefore, we can certainly say that working specifically on your strength will help you become a more complete and resistant runner. What are you waiting for to start your running strength training program?

  • Berryman, N., Mujika, I., Arvisais, D., Roubeix, M., Binet, C., & Bosquet, L. (2018). Strength training for middle-and long-distance performance: a meta-analysis. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 13(1), 57-64.
  • Blagrove, R. C., Howatson, G., & Hayes, P. R. (2017). Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle-and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 1-33.