Strength Training for Runners
Now that we’ve established the importance and need for solid mobility, it’s time to build on your improved movement pattern foundation. Runners have always battled against the need for strength training. Why waste your time throwing around weights in a gym when you could just get a little more running in?
Let’s establish the “why” first. Strength training has many benefits, including better muscle activation, increased muscle recruitment (especially fast-twitch fibers), improved running economy, injury prevention, and maintaining muscle mass. This last one is especially important for older runners (over 35). Strength training offsets the body’s decrease in muscle mass that occurs naturally as we age. A consistent weekly strength routine will help older runners maintain muscle mass. And, if you have existing muscle imbalances, consistent strength training can aid in remedying them.
There’s also some preliminary research on using strength training to aid in recovery after particularly hard workouts by returning blood lactate and heart rate to resting levels faster. This could point to a faster recovery turnaround after those harder workouts. A word of caution: To avoid injury, make sure you know how to perform the exercises with proper form. Lifting weights with already fatigued muscles may increase the risk of injury.
Keep in mind that building strength doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights. If you’re new to strength training, the proper approach initially would be bodyweight resistance. Master proper form first. Like the mobility foundation previously mentioned, establishing correct movement patterns is important before you add weight to avoid further muscle imbalances or injury due to bad form.
When performing a strength routine, whether bodyweight or weighted, runners should cover all major movement patterns: push, pull, squat, hinge, rotation, and end with a plyometric. In my yearly training, I always prioritize strength. I do some form of a similar routine to the following routines: Bodyweight 2-3x per week and the weighted workout 1x per week and occasionally 2x week in the winter off-season months. Remember, never do the weighted strength back-to-back days unless they are different muscle groups. (For example, legs on day 1 and upper body on day 2.)
Bodyweight Strength Routine
Use the following bodyweight strength routine as a foundation and introduction to strength. This workout also concentrates on glute engagement and can be performed 3-4+ times per week, depending on volume of running and training cycle.