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Strength Training for Runners

Posted on: June 23rd, 2022 by Our Team

Running is one of the most popular types of physical activity and is becoming more popular in the older athlete. The benefits are improvements in physical and mental health, reduction of all-cause mortality, and social participation.

Does running keep you in shape?

Running is a repetitive activity focused on moving in one direction only.  It provides no conditioning for lateral movements which are important to avoid obstructions in your path like another runner or a puddle. Most concerning is that life happens in three dimensions. Being proficient in one plane of movement, without addressing the others with incremental supplemental training is that it increases your risk of injury. Runners often times will develop some degree of muscle strength imbalances or mobility.

Often, runners have one side of their body that can become weaker, so naturally the body compensates for that weakness by putting more emphasis on other muscles groups during repeated movements.  This exposes the runner to additional risk of injury.  For example, when your glutes are weak the demands on your low back and hamstrings are greater which can lead to back pain and lead to injury.

Lower extremity overuse injuries are common among runners, due to the volume of impacts and training. So, it is important to identify and train imbalances to avoid injury. Inadequate strength and muscle control of the core and hip stabilizers increases risk. That is the rational for recommending hip abductor and quadriceps strengthening to reduce running-related injuries.

At CAO Sports Performance we can perform a functional strength assessment to identify your weaknesses and strengths and how you will benefit from a strength training program.  We can formulate a plan to optimize your performance and reduce your risk of injury.

What are the benefits of strength training for runners?

Balancing running with strength training with help you increase your running efficiency and protect you from the risk of injury. Strength training your lower body will help to generate more force which enables the ability to propel you farther with each stride.

Studies confirm that resistance training is beneficial for runners providing an 8% increase in running efficiency for those who train regularly with weights. Running depends on the hamstrings, glutes and erectors. Strength training can reinforce synchronization of muscle contractions at higher speeds; improve power and enhance muscle coordination.

Strength training your upper body and core exercises will help improve your posture and running form.  A strong core provides stability, and more control over movements which reduces fatigue and preserves energy.  It also enhances mobility which is essential to hips, ankles and upper back. The result is running more smoothly and efficiently. Combining endurance training with heavy or explosive strength training improves endurance improving running speed and power output.

Which strength training is best for runners?

The best program is one that is based on an evaluation of the athlete’s athletic level and current strength and conditioning practices to ensure the prescribed activities have a sound evidence-based rational.

The effects of strength training depend upon the type, age and sex of runner. Marathon runners have different needs than competitive runners, middle- and long-distance runners, highly trained runners and amateurs. It is estimated that 70% of long-distance runners, also called endurance runners, sustain injuries that prevent them from continuing their running routine.  Female runners over the age of 40, called Master runners, have difference training needs than their younger counterparts. Modifiable risk factors that strength training can improve include poor flexibility and muscle weakness.

Targeted strength and conditioning programs can potentially improve performance and reduce injury risk factors. The most common strength training routines involve stretching, core stability exercises, resistance training, and plyometric training, circuit training, running drills and cross training.

Contact CAO Sports Performance to schedule a consultation today and learn how you can optimize your performance, achieve your aims and control your risks.

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