Faster running performance….
Improved running economy….
Reduced risk of injury….
It almost sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Strength training is essential for running! It seems that most runners have added some strength work into their routines, or at least for a short period of time, but a lot of runners are not doing the right type of strength work. There are some important keys to tailor your strength program to maximize the benefits according to research.
A 6-week strength training program 2-3x week resulted in faster running performance and improved running economy.1,2 The research showed significant improvements in 3km to 5km distances with a strength training program. Much like distance running, consistency is a key factor when it comes to strength work. It doesn’t happen overnight. Therefore, it is critical to not only implement a strength program but stick with it.
Strength training also reduces your risk of injury. A systematic review and meta-analysis study showed that strength training could reduce the risk of overuse injury by up to 50%.3 The study pointed out that there was some outlying data, but it consistently showed favorable benefits in terms of injury reduction. From personal experience as a high school track and field/cross country coach, I have noticed a tremendous decrease in major injuries in distance runners from implementing strength work.
When performing strength training in distance runners, there is a myth that persists that the training should be low weight and high repetition. The benefits listed above were not able to be replicated by research with high repetition training.4 Distance runners build muscular endurance by running, so we do not need to train that aspect with our strength work. Instead, we are looking to add strength with our strength program. To do this, you should focus on doing 3 sets of an exercise with 6-12 repetitions with ample recovery between sets, 2-3 minutes. You should pick an appropriate weight that makes it challenging for you.
When it comes to exercise selection, you should pick exercises that target the hips, legs, core and calves. I like to pair exercises that work different areas to maximize time when doing strength sessions. I think it is important to note that what is right for one runner might not be right for another runner. It may take some trial and error with the exercises to decide what exercises work best for you and your body.
If you want some examples of strength workouts for runners, you can check out some of my YouTube videos below. I have several examples of workouts that fit the above parameters. The workouts are able to be performed at home with minimal equipment. You can also check out my entire YouTube channel, which is loaded with exercises for runners. While you are there, please hit the subscribe button for more great content for runners.
- Yamamoto LM, Lopez RM, Klau JF, Casa DJ, Kraemer WJ, Maresh CM. (2008) The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: a systematic review, J Strength Cond Res. Nov;22(6):2036-44.
- Karsten B, Stevens L, Colpus M, Larumbe-Zabala E, Naclerio F. (2016) The Effects of a Sport-Specific Maximal Strength and Conditioning Training on Critical Velocity, Anaerobic Running Distance, and 5-km Race Performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 11 (1), 8-85.
- Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB. (2014) The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med. Jun;48(11):871-77.
- Mikkola J, Vesterinen V, Taipale R, Capostagno B, Häkkinen K, Nummela A. (2011) Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. J Sports Sci. Oct;29(13):1359-71.
Brian Damhoff DC MS
Owner, Elite Performance Institute, Naperville, IL | Assistant Track and Field Coach Naperville Central High School | Team Chiropractor Northern Illinois University Track and Field/Cross Country | Doctorate of Chiropractic | Masters in Sports Rehabilitation