Many of the runners that we work with at CHP supplement their running with strength training. Strength training is a large component of athletic physical therapy and provides a host of benefits including, but not limited to; reduced injury risk, increased muscular endurance, and faster running times. Research shows that regular strength training improves a runner’s speed and VO2 max. VO2 max is a measure of the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can use during exercise.
However, there is one important caveat to all of these great benefits. A runner’s strength training program must be designed and executed appropriately, and according to the runner’s goals and individual characteristics.
Luckily, most runners have similar goals. They wish to run faster and/or farther, and avoid injury.
Strength training programs for runners should consist of exercises that improve qualities specific to running.
When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.
Therefore, we commonly advocate for runners to include more single leg exercises into their training.
These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.
Furthermore, runners should not neglect upper body training. Arm drive is an essential component of running and helps to drive leg action. An effective runner cannot have one without the other!
A thoughtful and more scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners, may be all that is needed to drastically improve your running performance.