Why and how strength training is essential for faster, injury-free running

Strength training: The recent craze in the running world. Will it make me faster? Will it reduce my risk of injury? We find out!

You may think the gym is for bodybuilders, not runners. This is a myth. All sports, including running, can benefit massively from regular strength training (2-3 sessions per week). Before you ditch your Sunday long run and head to the gym, let us explain why and how to go about strength training.

Don’t replace your staple workouts

Strength training should complement your regular training, not replace it. Unfortunately, this means you’ll be keeping your Sunday long run, your Tuesday intervals, and your Thursday tempo run.

It’s all about finding the right balance between run training and strength training. Performing too much of one training may lead to increased risk of injury – the complete opposite of what we’re aiming for.

Easy does it…

Just like running, strength training needs to be gradually incorporated into your training regime. When beginning, aim for a single gym session per week, preferably replacing (or as well as) an easy day. As we said, strength training should complement our running and not replace it.

Once you’ve hit the gym once or twice, it’s time to increase the frequency. Aim for a minimum of two strength-training sessions per week and no more than three. These sessions can form a double workout day, either later in the day after an interval session or in the morning, followed with an easy run later in the day to speed up our recovery time.

How will strength training make me faster?

If I’m not running, how am I going to get faster?

Regular strength training improves your maximum sprint speed, running economy, and overall running performance. This is due to a combination of neuromuscular development and strengthening of the muscles and tendons.

Incorporating routine strength training into your training will allow our primary and secondary running muscles to become not necessarily much bigger, but definitely stronger. For example, performing running specific exercises such as walking lunges or heavy squats will stress our nervous system (mind to muscle connection). Increasing our neuromuscular strength essentially improves our brains connection to our muscles – allowing us to exert increased muscle force.

Strength training also recruits smaller muscles which aren’t used so much while running. Developing these muscles will prevent our primary muscles from overcompensating, allowing our body to work as a single unit rather than a few muscles.

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Reduced risk of injury

It’s the strengthening of muscles that prevent us from developing muscular imbalances within our running economy. Regular strength training strengthens our working muscles used while running. The strengthening of these muscles prevents overcompensation of the muscles while running – a common cause of injury.

The bottom line

Incorporating regular strength training (2-3 times per week) into our training has the potential to improve our maximum sprint speed, running economy, and our overall running performance. Ensure not to replace your regular running workouts and instead complement them – after all, you can’t run faster if you’re not running or worse injured.

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