Strength Training for Joggers and Runners
This, is a personal favorite topic of mine, why?
Because it really demonstrates that resistance training, can be so much more than beach weights and Saturday night muscles.
Adding strength training into a routine of a runner will reduce the risk of those under wanted injuries and also improve running performance.
How can strength training enhanced running performance?
First things first, to understand the benefits of strength training for runners, they’re a few basic principles to understand
They are three main physical qualities that can determine a good a runner .
V02 Max, simply put, is the highest amount highest amount of oxygen you can breathe in and transport to the working muscles. V02 Max is one of the strongest predictors of race performance and is an essential physical quality for running performance. There is little to no evidence that strength training will improve V02max and increases in body mass will actually decreased your V02 Max because V02 Max is linked with your power to weigh ratio, so any increase in mass could bring down your V02 Max
So why engage in strength training if it’s going to hurt your performance?
Because there’s a lot more to strength training then making muscle big and bulking, there is a host of different physical qualities that can be enhanced that improve race times.
These qualities are changes in the nervous system, think of it as a an software update on a computer rather than a hardware update.
Lactate is a by-product of energy production, more specifically anaerobic glycolysis. When oxygen requirements can no longer keep up with the demand of movement, pyruvate acid is converted into lactate, which in turn restricts muscular movements, thus slowing you down. Runners whom have higher Lactate threshold can run longer for harder. Strength training is often performed using the anaerobic energy pathway. Because of this, S&C will improve your ability to clear waste products rapidly, this will also help with your race performance
Running Economy is the amount of oxygen that can be used at a given speed and is the best predictor for race performance. A runner with superior economy will often beat a runner with the same or similar V02 Max. Running Economy is the best predictor of performance over distances of 5km.
An example of the importance of running economy is Paula Radcliffe, the greatest female long-distance runner ever.
Her V02 Max was 70 ml/min/Kg which, while very respectable, doesn’t even put her in the top 10 females every recorded.
However, her oxygen consumption at a pace of 16 Km/hr (6 min/mile) decreased from 205 ml/Kg/Km in 1992 to 175 ml/Kg/Km in 2003, which represents a 15% increase in efficiency (i.e. 15% reduction in the amount of oxygen consumption per Km at a standard pace). Meaning her running economy was truly breath taking and unquestionably world class
While strength training has been shown to bring about small improvements in V02 Max and Lactate Threshold. Where strength training really shines is its ability to vastly improve running economy.
Benefits of Strength and Conditioning Training for Runners
Strength Training Improves Focus Production
The main benefit of engaging in strength and conditioning routine, will be increases in the forces that you can put into the ground. By becoming stronger at squats and steps-ups, your ability to produce greater force through the ankle, knee, and hip means longer strides and faster running speed, all at less effort, thus improving your economy.
Using Tendons More Effectively
During running, the elastic properties of the Achilles tendon and connective tissues can contribute up to 30-40 percent of the energy to running and the best part of this is, its free energy. The Achilles tendon acts as a spring, absorbing energy and then springing back releasing the stored energy. This action is known of the stretch shorting cycle. Runners who possess greater levels of tendon elasticity often have greater economy. Heavy strength training has been shown to improve this quality, but the real silver bullet to enhance the stretch shorting cycle are plyometrics.
Strength Training (High Force)
Exercise selection should always be transferable, in the case of running, exercises that fulfill a number of biomechanical criteria will have the greatest carry over too improving race times.
Running itself is a concentric extension of the ankle, knee and hip. As previously mentioned, increased focus production is the main goal of strength training. Thus, high force or heavy loads exercise that concentrically extends the ankle knee and hip are perfect for runners. A mix of double and single leg exercises are recommended to prompted structural balance.
Single Leg RDL
While high force exercise are great, runners only spend about 0.2-0.5 seconds on the ground, Strength is great and is the base of everything but we want to produce that force as quickly as possible.
This is where power training comes in. Being able to recruitment muscles quickly will reduces the effort on each side and improve economy. Once again, we need to fulfill are biomechanical criteria to ensure all exercises are transferable to running.
Single Leg Box Jumps
The ability to use tendons like spring is key to improving our running economy.
The best way to enhance the stretch shorting cycle is plyometric training. Plyometric training is a very special form a body weight jump training, where the aim is to reduce the time on the ground as little as possible. The key here, is use the stored energy in the eccentric or lower phase of the jump to increase the concentric phase or the upwards phase, if you spend longer then 0.25 seconds on the ground, all the free energy from eccentric phase dissipates and you don’t get to use it. So, when it comes to running your 10km you going to want to all the free energy you can get your hands on. A word of warning, plyometrics training is very high impact and it should be carefully progressed for beginners and intermediates. Learning proper landing mechanics is key in the early stages of plyometric training.
Here is example progress for a beginner
Double Leg Hop and Stick (Learning landing mechanics)
Single Leg Hop and Stick
Small Hurdle Hops
Single Leg Hurdle Hops
A fad word the fitness industry, but the core really is any muscle the acts to stabilize the spine, think of the spine like a radio mast and the muscles like the cables supporting the tower as the core.
In runners, the core acts isometrically to resistance movement, specifically resistance rotation, extension and flexion. A core which is strong enough to resistance these movement will reduce the risk of injury and improve performance because a strong core allows force to be transferred from the feet through the body and help you move you forward.
Planks (Anti Flexion)
Side Planks (Anti Rotation)
Pallet Press (Anti Rotation)
Hanging Leg Raises.
When running, the hamstrings act to catch the leg during the swing phase. The hamstring is repeatedly rapidly stretched. Its not hard to see why they are so many hamstring injuries in runners. Strengthening the hamstrings in this length position or eccentrically, can reduce the risk of injury and bullet proof those hammies. All these exercises are to be performed slowly under good control, focusing on the lowering phase.
Single Leg RDL
Glute Ham Raises
Gluteal Strength and Control
The Glutes or bum muscle are the brains for the knee and ankle, often knee injuries are due to too poor leg control which can be traced back to weak glutes. The glutes act to externally rotate the femur and keep the knee tracking over the toe thus reduces stress on the delicate structures of the knee. Having a number activation and strengthening exercise in your routine can go a long way to preventing injury and keeping you on the road
Banded Glute Bridge
SL Glute Bridge
Side Plank Leg Abduction
General Injury Prevention.
Sites that are commonly injured on runners are the ankles, knees, and hips. Exercises that strengthen the tendons, ligaments and connective tissues in these areas will help to prevent injury. Perform these exercises using a slow tempo, a single rep should last 5-10 seconds and be done for reps 10-15
Single Leg Squat
Unfortunately, possessing an impressive squat and power clean won’t make you an effective runner. The inability to effectively express force will undermine all your good gym work. It is key, that runners incorporate drills that teach them how to effectively express force when running. Here are some drills that can be performed before a run, or during a warm up.
I hope all this helps. If you need help with a strength program for running, please get in touch.