The goal here is to keep your running injury free. The more variability there is, the less likely you are to become injured.
Not to fatigue prematurely in training or racing
Become more metabolically, mechanically and neurally efficient.
4 very important points to consider:
- Learn the basics first
- Begin with simple bodyweight exercises
- Progress from simple to complex using a well planned periodized program
- Technique comes before everything
Despite the compelling evidence supporting the inclusion of strength training in a runner’s programme, there are still plenty of runners who just run. Most runners know that regular strength and conditioning exercises are the key to remaining injury-free, yet as soon as time becomes tight in the week, the exercises are the first part of the training plan to get dumped!
Too many runners just want to run!
Injury is the biggest factor that limits so many, a lot of them overuse related and a lot of them largely avoidable.
Getting a runner onto an appropriate strength training programme has a powerfully positive effect on their ability to remain injury free.
In a recent research artice, it was concluded that strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved.
Athletes should be looking to develop and maintain muscle balance and stability and proprioception and work to maintain mobility around key joints like the hips, as the miles take their toll on the body.
*Train Your Upper Body
Obviously our legs carry us as we run, so we need strong quads, calf muscles, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, etc. But don’t forget your upper body!
When it comes to posture in particular, we need to view the body as a whole.
The back muscles are of huge importance for development as these are largely the muscles that hold us tall, and maintain posture as we run.
Light is fast. But light and strong is faster!
Strength training for runners and stretching should not be viewed as being mutually exclusive. A good cross training programme for runners will incorporate elements of both.
A lot of runners are quad dominant. It is critical to use exercises to properly train the posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings)
Work multiple planes of motion
Just because running is a uni-directional movement, it doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of rotation and lateral motion going on to produce that movement!
When we predominantly train the muscles which work to produce straight line, sagittal plane movements(quads, hamstrings) they become the ones which get worked the hardest and develop strongest, leaving the muscles which get loaded more effectively through rotation and lateral movement (glutes, obliques and adductors) yet are responsible for providing stability as we run to remain weak and deconditioned.
Many of the weak links in runners occur in the frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) planes of motion. The ‘hip drop’ or Trendelenburg gait is a typical example of poor glute medius function on the standing leg.
A good choice of strength exercise is the crab walk exercise which mirrors this multiplanar movement.
Function at the ankle, knee and hip is maximal when the hip displays great stability.
Learn & Maintain Great Technique.
I am a stickler for technique when it comes to exercises intended to support your running.
When it comes to strength training for runners, getting the exercises done is a big part of the battle, but taking the time to learn and execute great technique throughout each exercise is all too important. With certain exercises, there are subtle tweaks that can make them more quad biased, and other tweaks that make them more glute biased.
Your time and effort is precious, you might as well get the most out of the exercise. Below I have included a few uni-lateral exercises that are also an integral part of my strength training program.
Plyometrics are one of the most effective tools for developing more powerful athletes. However, like many things with great potential, that potential can only be realised if used correctly.
Running involves collision with the ground which in turn create ground reaction forces that must be dissipated through the body. Runners optimise mechanical energy by using a spring mass system, whereby the leg acts like a spring to control the downward movement of the torso during ground contact.
During ground contact, the tendons of the ankle, knee and hip stretch and store elastic energy before shortening again as the runner leaves the ground. This action is known as the stretch-shortening cycle.
If utilized well, it spares the muscles from doing more work and conserves energy while also protecting the joints from excessive forces.
Variables like contact time, flight time, vertical oscillation or leg stiffness, among others, have shown to be well linked to running performance. Specifically, those variables have been used to measure the cost of running, i.e., the energy used to move ourselves forward at a certain speed.
Thus, shorter contact times, higher flight times, shorter vertical oscillation (i.e., the vertical displacement of the Center of Mass while running, a metric indicating how much do we ‘bounce’) and higher leg stiffness (i.e., how ‘reactive’ are our steps; the higher leg stiffness, the higher elastic energy produced by our tendons) would mean greater running economy.
True plyometric drills require runners to spend less time on the ground. The first phase is learning how to jump and land.
Developing eccentric strength for landing is the most important part of plyometric training. Think of it as tendon training.
- The more softly a runner land’s the better.
- Landing should never be deeper than a half squat position.
This is a whole other area for discussion. More here in a previous blog that I did.
Qualified Personal Trainer and Athletics Ireland level 2 Enurance coach
4 Endurance Coaching Network courses with Athletics Ireland
Phase 1 Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach from Elite Performance Institute