Including strength training in your running program will improve your running. How much improvement depends on what you do and how you do it. In this post I work through the basic strength training for running I currently do.
There is so much information available on strength training. Unfortunately most of it is low quality.
Good quality research on strength training for running is limited. There is still some out there.
Requirements of my strength training:
- Time efficient
- Increase fitness for life and work
- Improve running
One thing that gets in the way of strength training is if it encroaches on other aspects. The structure of the plan has to fit in well with my life, plus give me a good rate of return. Good news is you don’t need a huge time commitment to get the gains you are after.
Increase Fitness For Life And Work
I love my life and I want to get the most out of it. To achieve this it helps to be fit and capable of doing the things I want and need to. Back pain, injuries and fatigue at work and life are thing I don’t want to have to endure. Therefore the training plan needs to assist with this.
My job provides a mixture of sitting, manual handling and the occasional moment of high demand physical efforts. There are different injury risks in each category. Having a functional and strong body mitigates some of that risk.
It’s important to have the energy to participate fully in the rest of family and life. Approach training as a means to enhance life.
This is why we’re here. Enough said. Let’s get into the details.
Basic Strength Training For Running Plan
Keep it simple.
One main, full body workout every 3rd or 4th day. For those living more normal hours than me, that means 2 main workouts every week. These workouts ideally will be after a harder run. Either straight away, or later in the day. It is best not to do them the day before a key run. The carry over fatigue tends to reduce the quality of the run.
In between the main workouts, short 10-15 minute core training sessions are performed. Ideally it would be best to include one on every day without a main workout, but I will accept a minimum of 1 core training session between every main workout.
Main Full Body Workout
The exercise list
- Standing Single Leg Calf Raise 6-15 reps
- Seated Calf Raise 6-15 reps
- Single Leg Hamstring Raise 6-15 reps
- Lunge 4-10 reps
- Squat 4-10 reps
- Pull Up 4-10 reps
- Shoulder Press 4-10 reps
- Ab Wheel Rollout 6-15 reps
- Back Extension 6-15 reps
First week starts with 2 sets of each exercise. Second week 3 sets. Third week 4 sets of each exercise and this is maintained from then on.
Rest between each set will be approximately 2 minutes. Give or take 30 seconds either way. For the single leg exercises, I consider one side rested while working the other side.
The time commitment for a session is 30 minutes when it’s at 2 sets and extending up to 50-60 minutes at 4 sets per exercise.
For the 10-15 minute core training sessions there is less structure. Instead the aim is steadily work almost continuously for 10-15 minutes. That time is filled moving through a series of core stability and strengthening exercises.
Most work will involve a swiss ball and focus on rotation and anti-rotation exercises. Basically this means keeping the core in a neutral position while moving a load around in different positions. This concept is best demonstrated in video over words. Lebron James shows off this concept to a high level in the article LeBron’s Secret To Being Better Than Ever In Season 15? Superhuman Core Strength.
Intensity and form are important. Poor form leads to injury risk. Therefore the load must be within a range to it keep it together. However, the load must also be hard enough to get results.
Science suggests we get more benefits in improved connective tissue strength, limb stiffness and muscle power from higher loads performed for 2-4 sets of 4-15 repetitions compared to circuit style training or lower loads performed for more repetitions.
This is individual. Injury history, current imbalances, strength profile and equipment available all influence which exercises you choose. Different exercises can achieve the same goal. So I’ll go through the overriding principles of my selection.
Calves are targeted with 2 exercises. These have become a relative weak point for me over the last couple of years. Weakening of the calf muscles as we age has been shown to be a major cause of reduced stride length. Leading to the shuffling running pattern I am trying to avoid. I aim to turn that around.
The hamstrings play an increasing role as the speed of running increases. I want to run faster. Therefore I will strengthen the hamstrings.
Squats are included as a big lift. Dead lifts could be used in their place. There are potential benefits from squats and dead lifts beyond the direct strength gains. Research has shown there is a greater hormone response elicited compared to machine or exercises using lighter loads. Does this lead to further other improvements? Maybe. The science is far from conclusive. Including squats in my strength work usually has me feeling stronger overall.
Remaining exercises are chosen to cover the major movement patterns of the upper body, push, pull, extension and flexion. Rotation is covered is covered in the core training on days without the main full body workout.
What strength training do you include?
Would you like to know more about anything in this article?
Let me know in the comments below.