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Strength Training For Runners

There are many types of strength that contribute to running performance and these include

Maximum or Absolute Strength:

This is the quality people normally associate with strength. It is the highest amount of force an individual can develop through a specific movement pattern.

Relative Strength:

Is the maximum amount of force you can generate per kg of bodyweight. Putting on muscle bulk is disadvantageous to endurance runners, however, getting stronger without adding unwanted mass is important. The ability to develop relative strength lies within motor unit recruitment and the central nervous system.

Explosive Strength:

During a running stride you have only a fraction of a second in contact with the ground, therefore limiting the time in which you have to generate force. Producing strength quickly and explosively is a very trainable quality that all runners need to develop to improve performance.

Reactive or Plyometric Strength:

Of all the strength qualities listed, reactive strength undoubtedly the most important for running performance. The running action relies heavily on the elastic properties of the tendons and connective tissue to produce the majority of the force. Instead of relying on muscles to generate force (which requires a considerable amount of energy), the body makes use of these passive tissues, which are incredibly efficient at storing and returning elastic energy. You can improve your body’s reactive strength qualities through a training technique known as plyometrics.

Training for strength is going to serve you very well as a runner. Strength is fundamental in good running economy, improved bone density, better muscle insertions to joints, better motor unit recruitment within the muscle, and improving speed.

You will need to focus on just a few key elements to get the most out of your strength sessions each week:

Lifting with intensity – It is worth mentioning again that you should disassociate with running when you walk into the gym. Embrace the challenges the gym throws at you and focus on getting as strong as possible through smart exercise choices. Don’t fall into the trap of placing abdominal work between sets or some sort of H.I.I. T as you feel uncomfortable sitting for the minute or two required for rest. Follow your program as closely as you can and you will soon find yourself not only making huge improvements in strength but also running times.

The goal of your strength sessions (or even strength movements within a session) is to move as much weight as safely possible, and you should be prepared before going to the gym for this. You will need plenty of rest between sets to allow for recovery of your ATP stores  and should feel “fresh” before completing your next set. Do not mistake ego lifting for improvement, however. Only allow yourself to go up in weight when you can correctly execute the movement you are training. Strength is by definition a skill, and the acquisition of said strength comes from many repetitions of flawless form on a specific movement, cementing the correct motor units recruited with correct timing within the muscle itself.

Rest as needed – Do not rush through your strength session. Focus on your form and performing every single set to your best ability. You should require a good 2-3 minutes rest between most sets for your maximal efforts. The rule of thumb for strength training is to move on to your next set whenever you are capable of doing so, whether that is 90 seconds or 3 minutes can vary.

Recovery–In order for you to benefit from your sessions you need to prioritize recovery. The best way to do this is to get enough sleep. For most of us, that will look like 7-9 hours per night. A good way to establish what your body needs is to wake up without the use of an alarm clock; once you have established this baseline do your best to manage your day to allow for this each night. It is also worth noting that the energy systems and recovery needed from strength training are very similar to higher intensity running sessions. For this reason, I advise that you don’t do an interval-based tempo run session on the same day as strength training.

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