Strength training for runners. Important or not?
Can strength training make you run faster?
We know that to run fast, you have to practice running. A well-planned running program suited to your individual goals will obviously be key if you want to achieve faster times, but there are often other tried and true methods that will elevate your gains even further (improving your form, a healthy eating regimen, etc…).
But, can incorporating strength training into your programming help bring down that pace and make you a stronger and/or faster runner? The signs point to yes.
A solid strength training program will take all muscles of the body into account, including the smaller, overlooked muscles critical to being a stronger runner (and obstacle course racer!) It’s common for gym-goers to have “back and bi” days or “leg day” … but skip focusing altogether on the tiny muscles that work behind the scenes in a supporting role. Unfortunately, when people are unwilling to invest in good training programs written by educated professionals, they often fall victim to the whole “you don’t know what you don’t know” scenario despite their best abilities and intentions.
Arguably, the smaller “behind the scene muscles” are some of the most important muscles to focus on because strengthening them allows your body to handle all that mileage to continue training without injury. Including them in your program helps strengthen your connective tissue and muscles, and can correct any muscle imbalances that often contribute to injury. This usually occurs through compensation, where your body tends to favor the stronger side.
What kinds of muscles are we referring to? Here are just a few examples (of many) forgotten and overlooked muscles that are easily incorporated into a strength training program, and so important as a runner:
- Tibialis Posterior: Responsible for inversion and plantar flexion. Stabilizes your foot when you land to prevent excessive pronation. Wraps from the back of your shin to your inner ankle bone into your foot.
- Iliopsoas: Hip flexor muscles. These make it possible for you to lift your leg up and forward.
- Latissimus Dorsi: Triangular slab of muscle that runs across your back from your shoulders to pelvis. Helps to fuel your momentum and if it’s weak, you’ll lose out on speed and run with your shoulders crunched forward. Can cause stiffness, aches, or pains in your neck, shoulder, and back.
- Soleus: A muscle in your calf that stretches from below your knee to the top of your heel. Helps with propulsion and produces power when your knee is flexed during running. Provides ankle control for a better push-off. A weak soleus will strain other calf muscles allowing your pace and stamina to suffer by way of shorter strides and more steps.
BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS:
- A faster finishing kick (though you don’t want TOO much energy leftover to drop your pace significantly at the finish line—this means you could’ve run the race faster).
- Improve your running economy. With stronger muscles, your muscles don’t need to expend as much energy to hit faster paces.
- Improve neuromuscular connections. Strength training can improve your power and allow your body to recruit more muscle fibers more quickly and easily, resulting in higher efficiency.
- Improve balance
- Improve muscle imbalances
- Reduce injury
- Can help strengthen tendon and ligaments
- Builds confidence
HOW CAN YOU GET STARTED?
Ultimately, the best thing to do is just get started. We’ve got a free protocol fitness test here, where you can see where you’re starting strength-wise. We’ve also got a free couch to 5k running plan you can download.
If you’re looking to take your running to a faster pace, our training programs can help you get there. Whether you need a custom running plan, a strength training program, or a combination of both, we’ve got you covered. The key fact remains: strength training for runners is really important.
We’ll even send you a 20% off coupon upon purchase of either a running program or any full strength training program*. It’ll be good for an additional strength training program or running plan. Your choice.
If you’re not ready to commit to any programs, take the first step out of the door with our free 5k plan and hit the trails, road, track, etc. Then, hit the gym and focus on getting strong. We’ll be here with top notch training programs to help you reach for new potential when you’re ready.
*Strength training programs that are eligible include: Any full Pre-Season, In-Season, Post-Season, Off-Season, or All Seasons programs. The full programs include a lift, cardio, and flex programming as part of one program. The code is sent upon purchase of one of the aforementioned programs or a running program and may be used on either another full strength training program or running plan.
Source used: Runner’s World