When you ask most runners about strength training, their eyes glaze over. But as endurance training goes, it does more than merely build bigger muscles. Improved muscular strength can have a positive impact on your running and cycling performance and can even make you a more competitive runner. In this article, David Reagan, an Atlanta-based certified personal trainer, explains the importance of strength training for runners.
Running is excellent for improving cardiovascular health and endurance. Regular running can enhance your body’s aerobic capacity of V02 max, meaning your cardiovascular system can deliver more oxygen to your muscles, and your muscle cells can better take up and utilize that oxygen. But to maximize your fitness, also work on strength training, like lifting weights, doing body-weight exercises, training with resistance bands, etc.
5 Compelling Reasons Runners Need Strength Training:
Below, David Reagan looks at ways that strength training can improve your running performance and help you develop a more balanced physique.
#1. Strength Training Will Balance Your Muscle Development
Strength training for runners isn’t about building bulky muscles and bicep curling massive weight. Remember, your body is one integrated system, and while you may focus on your lower body when you run, you’re still using your arms, shoulders, and back. If you neglect these areas, you will not only improve slower but also run with poor form and risk injury. A weak upper body can hinder your performance when you run.
You might not need to work your lower body intensely if you run since you’re using your lower body every time you take a stride, but some upper body work will give you more balanced strength. Who wants a strong lower body and weak arm and shoulder muscles?
#2. You Need Core Strength for the Best Running Performance
Running is excellent for your cardiovascular system, but it doesn’t do much to develop your core, the muscles in your midsection that support your spine and help you maintain good balance and posture. Proper balance and form are essential if you run.
Core muscles are not only crucial for having an attractive body, but also help prevent back, hip, and spine pain. A strong core also enables you to generate power and thrust when you launch into a run or sprint. Having a solid core also lowers your risk of injury. A weak upper body makes it more challenging to maintain proper form, which can increase your injury risk.
Which exercises should you do for your core? Some compound strength exercises like push-ups, deadlifts, and squats target your core and include focused core movements in your routine, like planks and their many variations. There are at least 50 ways to plank, and they all strengthen your core muscles.
#3. Strength Training Improves Running Economy
Building muscle strength will help keep your body in proper alignment when you run. This will improve your biomechanics and reduce the amount of energy you use when you run because you’ll make fewer extraneous movements that waste energy, leading to better running efficiency and running economy. One study found 8 weeks of strength training boosted the running economy in long-distance runners, despite no changes in body weight.
Another analysis of multiple studies found that strength training can improve the running economy by 3 to 4%. In the study, the participants did two to four strength exercises, along with sprints and plyometric exercises that involved jumping.
If you run shorter distances, like a 5K, strength training will also improve your performance through an upgrade in running economy and reducing fatigue. It can also modestly improve your speed. All runners can benefit from strength training from shorter distances to marathon runners.
#4. Reduce Your Risk of Injury
A stronger core, leading to better biomechanics, can lower your risk of injury when you run. Spending some training time on strength training reduces the risk of overuse injuries from doing the same repetitive movements over and over when you run.
#5. It’s a Good Change of Pace
Even if you love running, strength training can be an exciting change of pace. You might discover the fresh challenge that strength training offers. It’s a different way to train and one that many runners learn to enjoy. It’s another way to challenge your body.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a runner, you still need to strength train, and doing so can make you a better runner. So, shift some of your running time to training your muscles against resistance. It’ll improve your running form, core strength, speeds, and lower your risk of injury.
About David Reagan
David Reagan is an Atlanta -based NASM Certified personal trainer. David provides his services to busy executives and business owners, who are looking to lose weight, get fit and achieve better mental clarity. Health has always been a priority of David’s, and he is determined to help as many of his clients as possible to organize their lives in a way that promotes physical and mental well-being. For more information about David, visit https://www.davidreaganatlanta.com/.