The support for strength training in the running arena has been growing rapidly and becoming more wide spread, however there are still so many runners who continue to pound the pavement without this vital tool. Over the past several years, research studies have been published that support strength training in runners to build strength, improve running economy, decrease injury and improve performance! There are so many benefits for the running population. As a running analysis specialist at CPR I see a fair amount of running injuries and many of these are in runners who are only running, no cross training and no strength training. The benefit a couple 30-minute strength/plyometric sessions a week could add to your health is huge and would allow you continued enjoyment of running. Spending time strengthening will likely benefit you more than spending $150 on the “perfect” running shoe (although a good running shoe is an important piece of the puzzle).
A Runner’s World article highlighted findings from a systematic review (high level of research) from 2007; it “confirmed the positive effects of concurrent resistance and endurance training. Physiologically speaking, the studies measured a collective 4.6 percent improvement in running economy. Of more interest to runners looking for lower PRs, however, is the fact that they identified a 2.9 percent improvement in 3K/5K performances. That’s like going from a 13:30 5K to a 13:06.5.”
Not only does strengthening help improve pace, it can aid in injury prevention. One research study looked at injured runners’ hip strength compared to healthy runners. They found the hip flexors and abductors on the injured side to be significantly weaker than the non-injured side, whereas the healthy runners had more symmetrical strength. This shows how important it is for strength and symmetrical strength to decrease risk of injury.
Now that we know strength training is great benefit to runners…what should it look like?
One study showed that 1x/week of strengthening is likely not enough. Try to build at least 2 days a week of strengthening into your routine, this does not need to be a huge chunk of time. Another study found that strength training can decrease immediate performance in running for about 6-24 hours, so a hard training run may be better performed in the morning before an afternoon strength training session. Or you can strength train on days you are not running, but make sure you build in complete rest day(s) too!
Check out this article for exercise ideas and dosage:
- Single leg squats
- Hamstring ball curls
- Lunge to explode
- Front plank
- Side plank
- Skater Hops
If you do not feel equipped to run your own strength session, there are group training classes or personal trainers that could help structure this time. Check out CPR’s Academy for Sports and Wellness offerings for some great options.
So even if you are a runner because you love running and only want to run; I encourage you to incorporate strength training into your week so that you can continue running for many years ahead and not be sidelined by injury and repetitive stress.
Let’s put our knowledge to the test and follow the trend we have seen over the past several years of school athletics and high level runners incorporating strength training into their routines.
Below I have included links to some research and easy read running magazine summaries of the benefits of strength training. Check them out!
timing of strength session
weakness and muscle asymmetry in injured runners
reduced injury risk, improve performance
summary of research articles
makes you faster, improved running performance and economy
full summary of articles