Strength training for runners
Most runners love to run. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of only running and not doing any other form of training. However, it has been shown that resistance training can enhance performance for runners. Strength training can improve the muscles ability to store and release elastic energy and reduce the amount of energy wasted. What’s more, it can reduce your risk of injury and keep you running uninterrupted and pain-free. Weight training has been shown to improve strength and running economy (GREGOIRE P. MILLET, 2002) (KYVIND STKREN1, 2008). Plyometric training has been shown to improve distance running performance in athletes (PHILO U. SAUNDERS, 2006).
So what sort of strength training is important for distance runners. First of all calf strengthening is vital. The calf/Achilles complex contributes a huge amount to shock absorption, horizontal and vertical propulsion. Any deficit in calf strength, endurance or power can lead to poor shock absorption and predispose you to injury. Improving the calves ability to store and release elastic energy can also increase stride length and therefore increase running speed.
Hip strengthening is also of great importance to runners. The hips are the fulcrum around which our legs move to drive us forwards. Our trunk and upper body must also remain balanced on the hips as we run. Weakness in the hips can lead to a loss of lower limb rotational control, a loss of lateral pelvic control, poor trunk posture, overstriding, increased ground contact time and many different injuries. Many runners make the mistake of only strengthening the hip extensors. It is equally important to strengthen the hip rotators, flexors, and lateral hip muscles.
Finally, strength training is only useful if it translates into improved movement. Attention needs to be paid to running technique to allow the gains achieved by muscle strength, endurance, and plyometric training to carry over into your running. This should help make you more efficient, faster and injury free.