Should Runner's Strength Train?
Research has been mounting to support endurance running athletes to incorporate strength training into their routine for performance benefits. It could also be argued from an injury prevention perspective as well. Initially as strength training became more popular among runner’s, it was thought that low loads and higher repetitions was key to obtain performance benefits by strengthening the athlete in a similar fashion to the demands placed on them through their sport. However, more recent research is pointing to the opposite. Higher loads, low repetitions and explosive training, which was traditionally not recommended for runners, appears to be the key for effectiveness when it comes to performance.
3 performance benefits runners can expect from a proper strength training program are:
1. Improved Running Economy – Improving a runner’s ability to run at a lower oxygen or energy cost can improve endurance performances. More specifically, improving running economy by 2-8% has been seen in among recreational and elite athletes. It could be argued that the risk of injury is lower as well as less fatigue can occur too.
2. Faster Time Trial Performance – Middle and long distance improvements (1500m up to 10km) in performance have been shown in runners with a strength training program.
3. Faster Sprint Speed – Maximal sprinting speeds among distance runners has also been observed.
How should runners Strength Train?
At least for 6 weeks upwards of 20 weeks for optimal benefits.
Loss of performance benefits can be seen within 6 weeks of stopping training.
Intensity should be at 60-80% 1 repetition maximum i.e. heavy but not to failure.
3-6 sets of 5-15 repetitions.
2-3 sessions per week.
At least 3 hours of recovery after high intensity running before strength training.
At least 24 hours of recovery after strength training before high intensity running.
Examples of exercises include lunges, squats, deadlifts, step ups and calf raises.
Strength training regardless of an individual’s goals or sport should not be cookie cutter. Everyone will have different challenges, previous injuries or performance demands which affects the recommended exercises, intensity, reps and sets. It is highly recommended to consult a physiotherapist or strength and conditioning coach to address the specific needs for yourself and your goals.
Alexander, J. Barton, C., & Willy, R. (2019). Infographic. Running myth: Strength training should be high repetition low load to improving running performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 1-2.
Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Concejero-Santos, J., & Grivas, G. V. (2016). Effects of strength training on running economy in highly training runners: A systematic review with meta-analysis of controlled trails. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30 (8), 2361-2368.
Baltich, J. Emery, C., Wittaker, J., & Nigg, B. (2016). Running injuries in novice runners enrolled in different training interventions: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 27, 1372-1383.
Lauersen, J., Bertels, D., & Andersen, L. (2013). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(11), 871-877.
Ronnestad, B.R. & Mujika, I. (2013). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24, 603-612.
Yamamoto, L., Lopez, R., Klau, J., Casa, D., Kraemer, W., & Maresh, C. (2008). The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: A systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(6), 2036-2044.