Runners love to run, compete, and perform well in their events. That’s the entire purpose of running in the first place: to enjoy the process and to shine when the lights are on in competition.
Running is likely the most highly performed physical activity across the globe, which is great since it gets people moving.
Most people abuse running by taking on way too much volume and forget about doing the stuff that keeps their bodies strong and healthy enough to continue running without any setbacks–strength training.
Let’s dive into the importance of strength training for runners by reviewing the why, the what, and the how.
Performing the activity of running alone builds your capacity to run. This may be short-term or long-term, but either way, running will make you better at… you guessed it… running.
However, alone, running won’t necessarily prepare your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones for the repetitive stress of hitting that pavement for the miles and miles you hope to conquer with your legs.
When running is combined with strength training, this is a recipe for success that keeps your body healthy and durable for the repeated exposures. Lifting weights will help build the strength needed to stay in the running game for the long-term. Strength training prepares your body for the repetitive stress of running, so that you can continue running without having any setbacks.
Ultimately, this equates to longevity in the sport of running. Isn’t that what runners are after in the first place? To continue doing the thing they love for as long as they can.
Strength training equates to using some form of resistance to challenge your body to increase overall strength, muscular growth, and durability.
Most runners are afraid to touch the weights since they’ll either get bulky, overwork their legs, or get hurt.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can still achieve the volumes of running that you’re accustomed to and include strength training in your weekly routine without having to make any sacrifices.
More importantly, the strength training will actually improve your running economy and efficiency by improving your Rate of Force Development (RFD). In short, strength training builds stronger muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. In doing so, these structures in the body are able to produce more force during each running stride and contact with the ground.
Lastly, the topic of injury comes to mind with runners. Tell me about a runner who (a) has been running for quite a while and (b) hasn’t dealt with some lower body injury at one point in their running career.
It truly doesn’t exist, unless you’re a unicorn, in which case, strength training would still benefit you.
Every single time your legs hit the pavement, there’s a joint reaction force that impacts the ankle joint, the knee joint, and the hip joint. You want these joints and their respective surrounding structures (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) to be strong and durable for the repeated impacts.
In short, strength gained from strength training equates to more durability and longevity in the sport of running.
The majority of runners I’ve worked with over the years typically run an average of 3-4 days each week.
Now, if we’re going to keep up with the running volume, it’s important to use strength training in a complimentary way. This means that running is the priority activity and strength training is the secondary activity.
Based on that, I believe most runners can benefit a ton from simply adding in 2-3 full-body strength training sessions each week. Keep in mind that these don’t need to be super intense or high in volume. We just need to expose runners to external loading via strength training to produce an adaptation in the body.
I’d suggest keeping it simple by including some variations of the following movement patterns in your weekly strength training spread across the 2-3 days each week:
- Bilateral squat
- Bilateral hip hinge
- Unilateral squat
- Unilateral hip hinge
- Horizontal press/push
- Horizontal pull/row
- Vertical press/push
- Vertical pull/row
- Core training for stability (anti-rotation, anti-extension, anti-flexion and anti-side bend)
If you want a strength training program that is more specific so you can eliminate the guesswork and get results, I’d suggest checking out my 12-week online strength training program for runners: Run Strong
Run Strong was designed to factor in everything you’ll need for stronger running so that you can stay in the running game for life!
Strength training definitely cannot prevent injuries. However, when incorporated into your weekly routine responsibly, strength training can help you build quality strength and durability to reduce the risk of injury. Consider the strength gained from strength training to be protective and to act as your body armor. For longevity in the running game, start using strength training as your secret ingredient for long-term health!