Strength training offers athletes many benefits. A common misconception among runners is that strength building is detrimental to their training – that it leads to a ‘heftier’, more rigid body that’s more difficult to move. This is far from the truth.
Spending more time and energy in the gym can pay real dividends when it comes to improving your PB and it’s also vital for injury prevention. Here are the main reasons why every runner should make strength training integral to their regime:
- Avoid injury
- Increase bone density
- Improve form
- Faster recovery
Developing your muscles through strength training decreases the chance and severity of an injury. The strain exerted on muscles and tendons during resistance exercise strengthens them whilst increasing the flexibility of ligaments. Stronger, more resistant muscles decrease pressure on joints – more muscular lower bodies mean less knee and ankle injuries for runners. Strengthening the hips, for example, can decrease your risk of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome (‘runner’s knee’).
Increase bone density
Building muscle also increases your bone density. This is important for everyone, but especially for runners due to the risk of stress fractures. These occur when muscles become too tired to absorb the repetitive shock of running, leaving the bone to take the stress. If you have low bone density due to nutrition, age, or genetics – strength training will help you build it and decrease the chance of a stress fracture.
Strength training improves neuromuscular efficiency and running economy – in short, it improves your form. In simple terms, neuromuscular efficiency is the body’s ability to recruit the necessary muscle fibers to perform a particular action. In running, improved neuromuscular efficiency results in optimum cadence (total steps per minute) and optimum step length.
Developing certain sets of muscles through strength training also improves your running economy, meaning that you’ll find it easier to maintain speed and give that extra push when needed. A strong core, for example, will help you to keep you in an upright position when running and avoid wasting valuable energy. More muscular arms and shoulders will also help your run - the forward propulsion they create might make the difference between winning and losing.
Hitting the gym regularly will also help you to increase your top speed. Certain exercises like box jumps or weighted lunges will prepare your legs for explosive bursts of power when you most need them, and help to improve your VO2 max.
When you reach your top speed, you’ll also be able to maintain it for longer. This was established almost 40 years ago by Prof. R Hickson at the university of Illinois - he found that runners were able to run at full pace for 12% longer after a ten week programme of strength training.
Integrating strength training in your routine may even help you to recover more quickly from long runs. Your body will be more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy, meaning that you can hit the road again sooner.
Be more Mo!
Strength training isn’t just for those wanting to gain mass – it has many benefits for runners. With a program of strength-based exercises, runners can decrease their chances of injury, improve their form, and recover faster. If it’s good enough for Mo Farah, it’s certainly worth giving it a shot.
Enertor can help you avoid injury and improve your running form. Our expertly designed insoles will ensure that you have correct foot alignment whether you’re hitting the gym or pounding the pavements.