One of the most common suggestions I give to runners who want more out of their training program is to do more strengthening. At this point I usually get asked why, due to a belief that if they want to get better at running surely it should be by doing more running.
Perhaps surprisingly this is not necessarily the case.
Usually the runners I see are already running a lot and although they are fit and healthy they are getting physio for some reason and usually it is due to a strength deficit.
The reason runners can benefit from strengthening is largely due to improvements in tendon strength. By having stronger tendons, runners can be better at absorbing the force through their joints (which can be up to 6 times body weight) and by better dealing with that repeated load, runners are less likely to get injured. Not only that, but strength training improves your power, coordination and efficiency.
But won’t strength training make me too bulky and heavy? A good question and why having some guidance, particularly in the early stages is important. My recommendation would be to perform relatively low reps (4-6 reps) for 3-4 sets with plenty of recovery time (2-3 minutes in between sets). Try to perform the reps at a slow but comfortable pace to increase time under tension. The heavy load, low reps, will stimulate the neuromuscular benefits of strength training and improve tendon strength and will have less of a hypertrophy (muscle building) effect.
Not only does the research say this type of training is beneficial for reducing injury rates but is also likely to improve your performance in long distance events. Next week I’ll have a blog for you highlighting some recommended exercises and which particular muscle groups benefit most from strength training for runners.
This blog was written by David our physiotherapist at Health Space Clinics. You can find him at our Rozelle and Burwood clinics and if you would like to make an appointment please call us at 9810 8769.