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Strength Training

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Running is the most important things to runners. However, strength training can take your running performance to the next level.

Strength is a vital part of the foundation for any movement, athletic activity or sport, whether the activity is continuous or intermittent. Not having strength training in a programme is a disservice to an individual and it can significantly affect the ability to sustain high level, injury-free performance.

I am a strong advocate of the phrase “strength underpins performance” and I believe every long-term training strategy should incorporate strength training due to the vast physiological benefits that can occur. Strength training can:

  • Prevent injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues.

  • Help you to run faster by improving power and neuromuscular coordination.

  • Enhance running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency.
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A structured strength training programme should have you moving in every direction. When the movements in the gym imitate those performed in everyday life, you become stronger, more efficient and can slow age-related muscle breakdown. However, most importantly for runners, you will decrease the time on the watch and reduce the likelihood of becoming injured!

The foundation of a strength programme should include seven functional movement patterns:

1. SQUAT (e.g. Goblet Squat)
2. HINGE (e.g. DB/KB RDL)
3. LUNGE (e.g. Reverse Lunge)
4. PUSH (e.g. Press Up)
5. PULL (e.g. Single Arm DB Row)
6. BRACE (e.g. Side Plank)
7. ROTATE (e.g. Banded Woodchop)

There are various ways to progress and regress the exercises above but for now think carefully when you are including exercises within your programme and make sure you’re ticking the seven boxes!

Unilateral Strength for Runners

A combination of single leg strength and control can be a great addition to your strength training or injury prevention routine. Unilateral strength is crucial for runners because everyone has one side stronger than the other. These imbalances are not ideal as the stronger side can overcompensate for the other and therefore increase the gap between the two sides. For runners, the leg you accelerate off is generally the strongest one. Moreover, it’s important that both sides are equal in order to accept the force of your body on each stride you take.

There are many benefits of performing single leg exercises and these include unilateral strength, improved joint stability and enhanced running locomotion. Unilateral work is a great way to develop strength, muscular mass, and isolate specific joint angles through various variables. Depending on the difficulty of the unilateral exercise, individuals can increase the load and therefore, making it well-suited for strength and/or hypertrophy development.

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DB/KB Goblet Squat – 3×7

DB/KB Reverse Lunge – 3×5 EL

DB/KB RDL – 3×5 EL

DB/KB Lateral Lunge – 3×5 EL

DB/KB Carry – 2x20m

Banded Pallof Press – 3×5 ES

Take 45 to 60 seconds between sets and exercises

EL = Each Leg; ES = Each Side

Upper Body Strength for Runners

It’s easy to forget about training your upper body when you spend most of the time thinking about running. Ensuring that you have a strong upper body will help with posture, improve running efficiency and reduce fatigue. It’s important to develop the body holistically and the upper body should not be neglected. One of the common concerns for runners is gaining too much upper body muscle mass. However, it is very unlikely that this will happen to individuals clocking plenty of miles as their bodies will be a catabolic state and therefore, hindering muscle growth.

It is important to remember that strength training should assist your running. Running is the main objective and strength exercises are a tool to help keep you moving forward.

You can find strength and conditioning via his coaching Instagram page: @jdwcoaching