Strength Training For Runners

If you’re a runner, no doubt you love being out on the road, out on the track, amongst nature and in the rhythm of steps and breaths.

You’re probably, in some way a little competitive as well, with yourself, your times or others… Want to know a commonly missed piece in the puzzle that can help you crush those stairs, run for longer and reduce risk of injury??? Who wouldn’t!?!

Introducing strength training *sounds of the heavens*

What, what what… “But wont I get big and bulky and slow?”

The short answer, no. It takes time to build up muscle and done correctly running strength training is not to build size and get slower, its to make you faster and more bulletproof!

So here’s a little crash course in strength training and how it can benefit you and your running.


Strength Training in a Nutshell

Strength Training is the loading of the body, commonly under resistance. The resistance can be in various forms. Often, weights are used to load different areas of the body to create a positive stimulus. Other common forms of resistance training include banded resistance training where elastic bands are used in various planes through movement for desired effect. 


Resistance training doesn’t necessarily have to be weighted. Sometimes an increased load can be applied by, for example utilising single leg training. This is also a fantastic tool for runners, as there is the added benefit of balance, not only on your feet, but between the two sides of the body.


Strength training is key to maintaining muscle mass, which can improve your metabolic rate, functional capacity, fitness and athletic performance.


Strength training for runners can often be neglected in place of more time on the track or on the road. Strength training has the potential to reduce your injury risk by correcting muscle imbalances and improving muscle activation, as well as increasing the efficiency of your running biomechanics which results in improved running performance.


Injury Risk Reduction

With each step when running, you can place about 3x your body weight in force through each leg, sometimes more when descending hills or stairs. Building and maintaining adequate muscular strength and stability to absorb the force produced in each step can greatly reduce total load through each joint, reducing pain and injury and increasing performance.


Muscle activation and firing

You may have the muscle, but getting it to fire and fire in the correct sequence is a little more difficult. Doing strength training, teaching proper movement patterns, both mechanical and neurological can be paramount. This can be done via a progressive protocol such as muscles in isolation, multi-joint and running-specific exercise. When done correctly this can retrain muscle recruitment patterns and ensure the right muscles are contributing to your run.

Running Efficiency, Biomechanics and Form

Strengthening the muscles that support your body in ideal alignment while running can improve your biomechanics and result in more efficient use of energy, leading to better form and a safer, more pain free running style. In other words, improving your movement patterns means less wasted energy and faster running! If you’re an experienced runner or not, you can still see noticeable benefits from utilising a strength program.

Older Runners

Older people in general, even active runners are more susceptible to Sarcopenia, which is a decline in muscle mass. With a decline in muscle mass there is an increased risk of joint injuries. Against mainstream understanding, it is possible for older athletes to build and maintain muscle by undergoing a structured strength program.


Do you concur? Yes, I concur.

Basically, if you’re a regular runner, whether it be periodised, or ongoing, a strength program can not only help you run faster, it can help you run longer and help prevent injury.

General strength training can be utilised for any sports (running included), but the biggest benefit would be from a specialised and structured program ensuring  focus on proper form and the following of progressive overload principles.

If you’re new to strength training, body weight movements are a great starting point. You can always increase the range of motion before adding weight to increase intensity. After you find yourself proficient with body weight movements focus on exercises that strengthening the glutes and hamstrings as well as the stabilisers around the hips. Common exercises that utilises these muscle groups are deadlifts, squats, lunges on one and two feet. It’s always beneficial to add in calf, foot and midline exercises as accessories to bulletproof yourself and your running even more.

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