The Importance of Strength Training for Runners 27/02/2014

I regularly speak to runners about their training almost of a daily basis, whether its at West Wickham Chiropractic Clinic, with friends, via Twiter or Facebook. I am always curious about what they do for training, where they go, how far, pace, running trainers and a load of other topics. But I am always very curious about whether they train with weights, and usually the answer is negative, with a sense of uncertainty & the worry about becoming a body builder!


So here are areasons why weight training is important for runners:


Injury Prevention (had to put this at the top)

As runners we will always have a weakness somewhere in our body, and this weakness is a big factor towards us getting an injury. Whether its vastus medialis obliquus (a quadricep muscle on the inside), gluteus medius (a muscle in the buttock region), or the hamstrings, we will have a weakness which produces a muscular imbalance. Reducing the effect of imbalanes on training & therefore descreasing risk of injury is important. It really isn’t nice running with pain, especially if you are training for a 1/2 marathon or full marathon.


Strength Training will help correct the structural imbalances caused by weaknesses which can lead to incorrect patterns of movement. Commonly I find runners with poor strength in their posterior muscle groups which are the gluteals, hamstrings and calves. Non dominant sides of the body tend to be weaker, which can distort your running technique. The more you train with a muscle weakness, the greater the injury risk. 


The benefits of Strength Training can be significantly improved if the programme you follow is tailored to you. You can establish what muscles aren’t working by getting an assessment by a Sports Injury Therapist. You don’t want to follow a generic programme which will over develop your stronger muscles & possibly neglect the weaker muscles.


Strength Training can decrease the onset of chronic pain, limit the chances of joint discomfort & promotes protein synthesis. Therefore allowing muscles to get stronger for your running.


Better Body Composition

Referring back to the public’s answer of, ‘I don’t want to weight train as I’ll look like a body builder & put on weight’, you really won’t develop that level of muscle mass increase because of your endurance training. Endurance training can have a negative effect on muscle growth & cause muscle fibres to convert to slow twitch fibres.


Strength Training will work against this process of muscle degrading & produce strength gains. In technical terms the catabolic & anabolic processes work against eachother. In Layman’s terms, the process of decreasing muscle mass will work against the process of building muscle mass. Strength will promote muscle growth, increase lean mass & with the running in your training will decrease body fat mass. Therefore your body composition improves, and effectively you tone up, but I use that term loosely!


You will faster, but not as fast as Usain Bolt!

Strength Training will help improve the efficiency of your body to utilise oxygen and the energy stores available. The body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently is measured by VO2 max which is the primary goal of endurance training. Improve your VO2 max, your improve your running ability. Therefore you will decrease the amount of oxygen needed while running and therefore keep running at a faster pace for longer.


Compound lift will improve your core strength

As soon as I ask anyone to name me an exercise to strengthen the core area, they will always say the front or side plank. But this isn’t really specific to running. In a plank position you hold the position for a sustained period of time, you don’t do this while running. Compound and traditional lifts will stress the core to work during the movement and help strengthen weak areas such as hamstrings and gluteals. They are very specific to runners as you will work major muscle groups you use while running and its a functional movement.


There are many other benefits of Strength Training for runners, but unfortunately I have run out of time and got to get to my next client! Hopefully this post has made you more open minded about strength training, and made you aware that there is a lot more to running than just running!


My Runners Workshops are very focussed on strength training to help improve the ability of runners. Keep an eye out for the next one!



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