Strength training is an essential supplement when it comes to a runner’s roadwork as it not only strengthens muscles but also joints and plays a crucial role when it comes to improving race times and decreasing the risk of injuries.
If you are a runner and you want to perform at your potential, you needed to adopt a comprehensive approach to running which includes the process of targeting areas of fitness that you won’t normally pay attention to such as flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength.
According to Jason Fitzgerald, USATF-certified running coach and the founder of Strength Running which is established in Denver, Colorado, strength training accomplishes three big goals for runners.
Firstly, it prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues then it helps runners to run faster by improving their neuromuscular coordination and power, and lastly, it improves the running economy of the runners by encouraging their coordination and stride efficiency.
All three points are backed by scientific research. The researches show that by incorporating weights into your regular exercise, you can increase your speed. It increases as the muscles no longer need to expend as much energy as before to hit a certain pace. The brain alters its neural recruitment pattern and thereby calls up the most fatigue-resistant muscle fibers so that you exert less energy.
Weight training, especially training that includes compound movements such as deadlifts or explosive movements like that of clean and jerk will play a big role in making you a big, powerful, and efficient runner. Studies show that explosive strength training makes your 5K run faster by making you a more efficient and powerful runner.
This type of workout will help you to develop your economy and muscle power alongside your speed. This will further allow you to gain a strong finishing kick which is essential to faster racing.
Weight training has a direct impact on your running economy. It not only improves your neuromuscular coordination but also your running economy which becomes more ingrained and efficient as time goes by. Research shows that resistance training improves a trained runner’s economy by as much as 8%.
What are the ways of adding strength training to your routine?
It is a bit daunting to work in the gym if you are not used to it but once you get accustomed to working out in one, it becomes a great place where you can get access to all types of equipment and space you need. If you are not aware of what type of strength training you need to take part in, take a group class that usually teaches CrossFit, Barre, TRX, Yoga, or Pilates. All of them are great options.
If you are not a fan of working inside, you can work outside along with your weights where you can engage in bodyweight exercises like pushups, lunges, or planks or use equipment like benches to perform tricep dips and bars usually found in the playground for inverted rows.
There are also other workouts you can include in your routine to strength train. The remaining options fall under the segment of cycling or swimming which you can include in your workout regime to build strength and flexibility in muscles that are not utilized during running to lessen the chances of injury.
One effective way of organizing your strength training every week is by focusing on different body parts on different days. In that way, you can strategically schedule lower body or leg days a few times a week after a long run and thereby give your body the full time it needs to recover.
You should focus on your lower body since you are using them to run long stretches of distances and they need to possess a lot of strength. To increase the strength of your legs, indulge in plyometric lunges, calf raises and farmer carries a few times a week.
Running also requires a solid foundation of the core. When you are running your abdominal and back muscles fire to stabilize your spine. Strengthening your core, all the muscles that surround and support the spine will help your legs to grow stronger. Investing 15 minutes every week will reap the benefits of strengthening your core.
Core strengthening will reduce the risk of unnecessary stabilization and will allow you to be an economical runner. The list of exercises recommended for strengthening your core includes superman, glute bridges, and finally, planks.
One of the big parts of running revolves around arm drive. When your legs get tired, they form a kinetic chain with your arms which also get tired. Doing exercises such as pushups, inverted rows, and reverse flys a few times a week will help you to achieve the core strength of important upper body muscles like that of the back, shoulder, and chest.
What are the best exercises when it comes to Strength training?
Chances are that you are in dilemma about the exercises you need to do in order to do strength train. So, to help you out, here is a list of the best exercises that you need to do if you are into strength training:
- The first exercise that you need to do if you are strength training is something that includes movements and not muscles. Compound, multi-joint exercises are your go-to exercise. These exercises target the functional movements that you usually do in real life such as bending down, pushing and pulling things, and even picking them up.
- To complement compound movements, here is a list of a good dose of bodyweight exercises that you can do after an easy run as they help you to recover fast from the run, at the same time building up the strength that is necessary to prevent your body from future overuse injuries. The effective exercises that you can do after an easy run anywhere include lunges, planks, push-ups, side planks, bird-dogs, and lastly, side leg-lifts. All these exercises help to build up the core strength which is essential if you want to prevent injuries and also get stronger. You can also do these exercises at your home if you are not fond of using outer working spaces like that of the gym. Try to set up a schedule if you are working out alone. An instance of the schedule you can set is 30 minutes no equipment bodyweight weight. Other workout routines can have a place for thirty minutes of strength and cardio circuit that will challenge your body and will result in a quick but intense bodyweight workout session.
- A lot of the injuries that are caused during runs are because of weak hips. It is also a major area of problem for runners who work desk jobs and are required to sit throughout the day. A solution to this is the ITB Rehab Routine which is nothing but a series of exercises that treat and prevent IT band injuries, that also help prevent other general injuries.
The workout regime focuses on hip and glute strength which are nothing but the two most important muscles that work at stabilizing while one runs. Another great option for the recovery of muscles and injury prevention is Foam Rolling. You can also do quick strength sessions where you can simply pick some exercises, preferably three or five of them, and do two or three sets of each of them, and aim for four to eight reparation of the same routine. Do not think that you can’t lift heavy. The more you lift heavy weights, the more it helps you as a runner. However, heavyweight routines are intense and should not be done more than once or twice a week.
How to Schedule Your Strength Workouts
Bodyweight sessions usually need low to moderate effort and you can do them at any time of the week, preferably after a run so that they help you to warm down properly by increasing the range of your motions and preventing the adhesions of muscles.
Doing this will help you to avoid a lot of the aches and pains that most of the runners suffer from. Usually, you will be recommended to start with just five minutes of strength exercises that consist of four to six sets after your run and as the days go by, build from there.
Strength workouts are usually more intense than a standard run so strength train after you run on moderate effort days. You will be advised to avoid them on your long run or workout days since you’ll be out of breath after running and chances of your form suffering are very high. And when you are prioritizing recovery, do not strength train at all.
Once your body is used to doing basic exercises, start increasing the reps you do or start adding more exercises to your routine. Make sure to add several types of exercises to the routine so that you keep a high variety of exercises that facilitate multiple muscle growth in your body.