Let’s clear this up right now, strength training and running go together, it’s not one over the other. Many runners avoid weight training because of the fear of being bulky or decreasing their run time. What they need to know is that strength training can improve your run time and increase your work capacity. As much as you work your aerobic capacity your anaerobic capacity should be complementing your aerobic training.
Why- Strength training can increase your muscles work capacity, which can improve your running technique. You’re less likely to fatigue when your muscles are stronger, they are able to maintain proper mechanics for longer periods of time. Maintaining stronger muscles will decrease the likability of fatigue during a race, also you will be able to increase the type 2 fibers that are the fast twitch muscles. Being able to focus on the big five areas of running will make strength training less daunting. The big five are knee, hamstring, glute, trunk, and back dominate exercises. These are the major muscle groups utilized when running.
Glutes- Glutes are your key muscle group when you look at the mechanics when running. The glute medius will be the main focus, this muscle is the rotator cuff of the lower body. It’s the first muscle to contract quickly when you move, it stabilizes your body when you are on one leg. Running is a unilateral activity, meaning, there is a single leg that is in motion, this is why it’s crucial to strengthen and stabilize the glute medius in unilateral exercises.
Hamstrings- These bad boys are what strengthen your lower back. They are also the reason your knees flex, which is a repetitive motion used when running. When you look at the mechanics of running, your heel should be reaching your glutes during the back swing motion, this allows for greater power output when running. The stronger you are through the hamstings, the greater force output you will be able to produce when you are running. Having strong hamstrings will complement your glutes, having these two areas strengthened will prevent low back pain and allow for your running to become less strenuous on the posterior chain.
Quadriceps- Runners usually have over developed quadriceps, but this doesn’t mean it’s not worth training. The quadriceps are responsible for two major movements in running, the first movement is knee extension and the second action is assisting in hip flexion. These actions are important because they cause the leg to swing forward when running. The insertion of the quadriceps is located on the tibial tuberosity, the boney projection below the knee, this is essential because having stronger quadriceps will assist in maintaining the knee in it’s position. One of the muscles in the quadriceps is known as the vastus medialis, which helps with stabilizing the patella and the knee joint during your gait when running.
Trunk-The trunk is a fancy word of saying the abdominals, the trunks main role is to maintain your posture, it keeps you upright. When we look at running we want to maintain a tall position, making sure that we are as tall as we can get, will allow for us to get a greater range of motion through the hips. We will not be able to maintain that tall position when we run if our trunk is weak, being able to focus on strengthening the abdominals will allow for greater stability. When you strengthen the abdominals you are able to reduce the wobbly feeling you have when you run, if you are wobbling form side to side when you run you will have an energy leak, which will slow you down.
Back- The back is the last key player when running strong, the back piggybacks off the same role of the trunk which is keeping your body upright. Having a stronger back will help with retracting the shoulder blades back, which prevents the shoulders from rolling forward. Good posture is what carries over to proper mechanics when running, if you find it difficult to maintain your posture then you will need to improve your back strength. The way you are carrying your arms are affected by how strong your back is, a strong back is what can prevent energy leaks through the upper body. A strong spine that is complemented by both mid and lower backs help to stabilize the spine and the pelvis.
Apply- Now that you have a better understanding of why strength training is important to running let’s talk about implementing it in your program. I have included a three-day program that revolves around the areas that are important when improving your running with strength training. Allowing yourself to strengthen these important areas will allow for you to begin making big strides in your sport of running. Focus on the importance of strength training to not only to reduce your race time, but to also reduce your potential risk of injury.