Strength training is often a neglected and overlooked aspect of a runner’s program. Incorporating 2-3 strength training sessions into your weekly schedule can make all the difference to improving your running performance, efficiency and decreasing your chance of injury. Whether you are a novice, recreational or high-level runner, strength/resistance training will change your running game!

A strength training program is often conducted at 80% of the individual’s 1RM (80% of the maximum weight the individual can perform 1 successful repetition of the given movement) for 8-10 repetitions for 3-4 sets. Strength training aims to challenge a runner’s neuromuscular system which in turn improves motor unit recruitment, firing frequency, musculo-tendinous stiffness and intramuscular co-ordination (Blagrove et al., 2017). Progressive overload and development of these areas has been shown to improve running economy and decrease the risk of running related injuries.

Strength training in conjunction with a structured running program has been shown to improve running economy (running economy being the energy cost to run at a given sub- maximal velocity) by approximately 4% when compared to a program involving running alone (1). Additionally, heavy resistance training increases the load tolerance and strength of a runner’s tendons, increases bone mineral density and increases strength of ligaments. Resultant of this, common running injuries such as tendinopathy and bone stress reactions are less likely to occur if heavy resistance training is performed in a structured progressive program. Meaning you are less likely to be spending time thinking about running, and more time hitting the track.

The best news about strength training… It has been to shown to improve your time trials! Yes, including strength training into your running program will not only improve running economy, decrease chance of running related injury and improve your strength, but will also make you FASTER! 3-5% improvements have been noted over middle distances (1500- 3000m) and 2-4% improvements were found over longer distances (5-10kms) (Karsten et al., 2016) (Blagrove et al., 2017). One study has suggested, improvements in 10km time trials were the result of being able to attain higher speeds during the final 3km of a 10km time trial (Damasceno et al., 2015). This is thought to be the result of greater muscular strength allowing for lower levels of force production required per stride and hence set back the effects of fatigue (Blagrove et al., 2017).

When commencing strength training it is a great idea to be guided by a health professional to assist with safe and appropriate progressive overload. Exercises such as; squats, deadlifts, lunges and calf raises are 4 great movements, which can really assist with your running and assist you find the improvements you are looking for. Be sure to progress gradually and look for those improvements over an 8-12 week timeframe.

Written by Jack Penny – Physiotherapist (B. PHTY)

If you need any assistance with a strength program or are suffering from any musculo- skeletal complaint, then the staff at Northside Sports Physiotherapy can guide and assist you.

Call your nearest practice to book in an appointment:
Hornsby – 9476 1666
Wahroonga – 9489 4588
Lindfield – 9489 4588

Blagrove, R., Howatson, G., & Hayes, P. (2017). Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 48(5), 1117-1149. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0835-7

Damasceno, M., Lima-Silva, A., Pasqua, L., Tricoli, V., Duarte, M., Bishop, D., & Bertuzzi, R. (2015). Effects of resistance training on neuromuscular characteristics and pacing during 10- km running time trial. European Journal Of Applied Physiology, 115(7), 1513-1522. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3130-z

Karsten, B., Stevens, L., Colpus, M., Larumbe-Zabala, E., & Naclerio, F. (2016). The Effects of Sport-Specific Maximal Strength and Conditioning Training on Critical Velocity, Anaerobic Running Distance, and 5-km Race Performance. International Journal Of Sports Physiology And Performance, 11(1), 80-85. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2014-0559