Strength Training for Runners
Running can be taxing on the body and when we get tired during a run we can start to fall apart. Strength training is something that a lot of runners don’t do because they’re afraid of becoming big and slow. This can’t be farther from the truth. The reason why you put on mass while your strength training is due to diet not because you’re lifting weights. Yes, lifting weights with extra calories will cause you to get big but eating extra calories without lifting weights will cause you to get big too. Size from strength training has a lot to do with volume not low reps with high amounts of weight. When you hit the gym most of the big guys are lifting moderate weights with lots of reps at many different angles. The strength training, we will be talking about will be low reps and low volume to maximize muscle recruitment without building mass.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Runners
Adding a strength training program to your running will help you feel strong at the end of the race. You won’t be slumped over and falling apart like many of the other runners out there. Strength training will help your knees and hips stay in proper alignment during the end of the race because doing things like squats, rows and lunges will help keep your muscles in balance.
Running programs tend to make you good at doing one motion over and over. This leads tight muscles especially in hips and ankles. If you’re a runner and you don’t do strength training, try doing a full range of motion squat with your butt almost touching the ground. Most likely you won’t be successful. Doing movements like lunges and squats help to develop a proper length tension relationship in major muscle groups. When the muscles are balanced, you have less chance of developing an injury. If you’re not injured, you can run more making you a better runner.
One other reason you should be doing strength training during your running program is that it will improve force production in the legs. Basically, while you run your legs will be able to produce more force which may help you run a little bit faster. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t eat extra calories during the strength phase because it will lead to gaining weight which will make you slower on race day.
When to add Strength Training to your Running Program
Running programs are set up to have 3 phases a base phase, strength phase and a power or speed phase. You should be adding your strength training phase during your strength phase of running. Most running programs will have this in the program so you have program in your strength training during this phase. Keep in mind that you will need to do a stability phase before doing a strength training phase to get the most out of your strength phase. If you skip the stability phase you increase the risk of injury and you might not progress easily during your strength phase.
Programing Strength Training
When building a strength training phase, you should be focused on compound lifts that use multiple joints. Build the phase around squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows and pull ups. If you can’t do pull ups use the lat pulldown machine instead. Keep the reps low around 4-6 reps and only do 2 sets.
Keeping the volume low will minimize soreness and allow you to perform your runs without feeling burnt out from your strength training. Each workout should last about 45 minutes and at the last 15 min of each workout should have some core training with things like planks, cable twists, and mason twists to build a strong core which is also important for running.
Don’t program your strength workouts a day before a hard-running workout because this can leave your body taxed and unable to perform at a high level during the run. Many runners will be running 6 days a week during running season and should stack strength training on the same day as running. When you’re doing a running workout the same day as strength make sure to do running first because doing strength first will affect performance during the run. Give yourself a few hours between workouts before doing a strength training workout because your body will need time to recover.
If you’re new to strength training pick up a book on strength training I recommend starting strength by Mark Rippetoe or hiring a fitness trainer to help you get started. If you hire a personal trainer make sure that they don’t add too much volume to your workout or don’t make you to sore because this will affect performance while running.