What Is Strength Training And How Can It Help Your Running?

What is strength training?

Strength training involves loading the tissues to increase the resistance to a movement. This can come in the form of bodyweight work, or you can use equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, free weights and fixed weights. The outcome of strength training is that you can better cope with any demand or load necessary in sport and life. 

To reach your full potential and reduce the risk of injury you need to train in ways that aren’t your sport. Strength training is one way to physically prepare yourself for the demands of your sport. Becoming competent in basic movement patterns will help build the foundations for safe and effective sports performance. If you neglect these basics then you become vulnerable to injury, especially when you fatigue, as you lose the ability to compensate for poor technique and mobility.

Why should runners strength train?

Running is a sport that requires training because it places high loads on the tissues. Strength training can boost the load bearing capacity of the tissues, increasing the amount of force the tissue can deal with. Strength training also increases force production; so, your performance will improve, and you’ll be less susceptible to injury. 

Whilst you may not immediately see the link between a squat or a lunge and running, mastering the fundamentals of these movements will provide you with a sound foundation to work from. For example, a squat teaches you maintain a neutral spine; important when running. It is also a movement that requires triple extension; simultaneous extension of the ankle, knee and hip – as does running. Likewise, a lunge movement requires triple extension but is a single leg exercise; making it even more specific to running. Even a plank; whilst isometric (the muscle length does not change) teaches us to stabilise the pelvis by engaging the core to maintain a neutral spine.

Where should you start?

If you’re thinking of undertaking a strength programme you should also set time aside to address any areas of limited mobility that are important for runners; ankle, hip, thoracic spine. Not doing so will put you at risk of some common faults when performing the strength exercises. 

I would always recommend that you enlist the help of a fitness professional if you want to incorporate some strength work into your plan. Not only will they teach and hold you accountable to proper technique, but they can also advise on how to incorporate these sessions into your weekly running plan.

For any training to be effective the principle of progressive overload must be applied and balanced with adequate recovery. A good strength programme will focus on basic movements performed well and include suitable warmups for the session. It will progress but not vary week on week and supplement, not take over, your running. 

Strength training with KimFit: Run Strong

I offer home-based strength workouts for runners as part of my Run Strong membership. This is a class-based plan delivered live via Zoom which runs in four-week blocks. I see Run Strong as an accessible way to bring strength training to runners. There are two classes a week; both include a warmup or movement prep as well as detailed instruction on each exercise. 

If you’d like more information, check out the following page: Run Strong