Runners like to run but usually hate strength training but how important is it?
Now we all know that running or jogging is primarily an endurance activity unless you do athletics and are a sprinter of course. Now, we all know that training for a given sport needs to be specific, which means it targets the need for that sport. So this being said if you need to improve endurance then it doesn’t sound very specific to train for strength, does it?
Does strength training improve running performance?
Mikkola et al (2011) got endurance runners to do heavy resistance training alongside their endurance training for 8 weeks and they found improvements in the following:
Maximal endurance performance
Maximal oxygen uptake
Low-reps with high weight training was done by Piacentini et al (2013) and they found significant gains in strength & running economy in endurance runners. Another study did more power-based exercise, in the form of plyometric training and found it to be advantageous for middle & long-distance runners in their competitive performance (Ramírez-Campillo et al 2014).
What are the loads in various parts of your body when you run?
This is the key information, the loads involved in running are huge and your body may not be able to cope with them especially as a new runner or as an ageing runner. This lack of load tolerance can lead to potential problems.
So here we go with the loads relative to bodyweight:
Patellofemoral joint forces are 5.6 times bodyweight while running (Loudon et al 2016).
3.7 to 4.8 times bodyweight in running (Ribeiro et al 2015).
9 times bodyweight in running (Maffulli et al 2004)
The Soleus takes 6-8 times your bodyweight while running (Dorn et al 2012).
Gluteus Maximus takes 2-3 times your bodyweight when running (Dorn et al 2012).
The Hamstrings take 8-10 times your bodyweight when running (Dorn et al 2012).
Told you they where more than you would have expected and this is why strength training is important.
Can you reduce the loads in your body when running to lower the risk of injury?
Yes you can and this video here goes into more detail on this:
So does strength training lower the risk of running injury?
Yes, Lauersen et al (2014) have found that sporting injury risk is lowered by 68% when strength training is done. If we take Hamstring injury as a specific example, then there is lots of evidence showing the benefits of strength training:
A great Hamstring strengthening exercise that has been heavily researched is called a Nordic hamstrings curl and Peterson et al (2011) found that doing these as part of your training can reduce the incidence of hamstring injury recurrence by approximately 85%. This was also supported by Goode et al (2014) and Van de Horst et al (2015) but they concluded that strengthening was preventative for a first time Hamstring injury, whereas the study by Peterson looked at recurrence.
How would I improve training in new runners?
I am a big believer that new runners shouldn’t just go and run without any strength training and load tolerance. Below is a video with more detail on this subject:
What are some good examples of running specific strengthening type exercises?
Now the first thing to point out before you look at these exercise ideas, is that strength training is not just the exercise selection but it is the parameters of this training. Below are guideline parameters for optimal strength training:
6- 10 reps (choosing a resistance or exercise that is close to failure somewhere in this repetition range)
3-5 sets with 3-5 minutes rest between sets.
You should train each exercise between 1-2 times per week as a guide.
These are examples and there are many other exercises that will be of huge benefit to you as a runner. Not to mention targeting weak spots that may increase your risk of injury. This is something we do in our Physio and biomechanical assessments at our clinics in Stoke-on-Trent. We find out your individual weak areas and more to devise a plan and exercises specific to you.
Even if you aren’t a runner strength is great for lots of other reasons check out what else it can help here:
In summary, Strength training is vital for existing and new runners. It lowers the risk of injury and helps to resolve injury too. A great example of injury responding positively to loading is something like Chronic Plantar Heel pain or Plantar Fasciitis, which is very common in runners. If you want to find out more on this and how you can use strength training to recover from this then click here:
Injury aside, strength training also improves running performance too. So there you go, you have no reason to avoid it now so get lifting!
The content in this blog article is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation.