Running is a great form of exercise in its own right, but did you know that runners should ALSO be performing regular strength training to supplement their running? There are two main reasons for why this is:
- Improved running performance
- Decreased running-related injury risk
Whether you’re hoping to PR your next 5 or 10k, complete your first marathon, or simply have longevity in your running career, adding in strength training to the mix can be a very strategy to use.
Including a strength training program as a supplement to regular run training resulted in improvements in running economy by 2-8%, even in well-trained runners. Running economy is your body’s efficiency at converting oxygen into forward motion, so the better your running economy is, the more efficient you will be at any pace, and the faster and longer you’ll be able to run in the long-term!
Strength training also helps to improve the strength and resiliency of our lower body muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which is an important aspect to consider when you realize the types of forces that the body deals with while running. Each time you contact the ground while running, your lower body deals with forces that can get up to 3-4x bodyweight. So a 150 lb runner could experience forces as high as 600 lbs with each step. Having stronger muscles, tendons, and ligaments will massively help you deal with this force more efficiently while you run.
On top of this, participating in regular strength training can reduce the risk of running-related injuries. This likely has to do with the previously mentioned improvements in muscle, tendon, and ligament strength, as the majority of running-related injuries are overuse type injuries.
With that being said, here are 5 of our favorite strength training exercises for runners!
1. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
For this exercise, you are going to elevate your back leg up on an object such as a block or bench. You are then going to lower down as far as is comfortable, before pressing your lead leg through the floor and returning to the starting position.
Having the front foot closer to the back foot and keeping your torso more upright will place the focus more upon the quads, whereas taking a longer stance and angling your torso forwards will place the focus more upon the posterior chain.
2. Kickstand RDL
This is a semi-single leg RDL variation that we often prefer because you can use more weight during this exercise due to the fact that it is more stable than a regular single leg RDL. To perform this movement, you are going to place the majority of your weight on your lead leg, and have the toes of the assistance leg placed on the floor, with minimal body weight through them. Then, you will hinge from the hips and push your butt back and your chest down until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes to return to the starting position
3. High Box Step Up
Choose a box that is roughly hip height (can be a little higher or lower depending upon your flexibility/mobility) and stand in front of it with one leg up on the box. Push through the box with the working leg to stand all the way up, and then lower down with the same leg until the trail leg touches the floor. Make sure to try to avoid pushing through the floor with the trail leg, as we want to be focusing upon the lead leg.
4. Single Leg Calf Raise
The calf musculature are especially important for runners as they produce a lot of the muscular force necessary for running. To bias the gastrocnemius portion of the calves, we will do this straight leg calf raise variation.
Standing on a small platform with the balls of your foot on the edge, you are going to keep your knee straight and push through your big toe to fully rise onto the balls of your foot. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
5. Single Leg Seated Calf Raise
Our last exercise is one specifically for the soleus muscle, an often overlooked muscle, but one that is vitally important for runners.
You will start sitting down with your knee bent to 90 degrees or more and forefoot resting on a small platform. Have a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell lying across the bottom of your thigh near your knee, and push through the big toe to rise up onto the balls of your foot. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
Contrary to popular belief, you will get the most benefit from implementing these strength training exercises into your program NOT by doing low-load, high-rep training (think sets of 15-30 reps), but by doing high-load, low-rep training (think sets of 5-8 reps). Doing this will help you build more strength while avoiding significant increases in muscle mass (which may hinder distance running performance), and will provide your muscles with a much different stimulus than they typically get while running.
If you’re interested in getting a customized strength training program to supplement your running, or need help with a pain/injury that’s affecting your ability to run, click the button below to talk to a PT!