10 STRENGTH TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS
Read any article or do a quick online search of what elite coaches prescribe for their athletes and it does not take you long to establish that strength training is an important part of most programmes.
What should you be doing and why is it important?
1 Injury Prevention – stronger muscles, bones and ligaments reduces the risk of injury. The constant landing and take-off, even during submaximal exercise puts a lot of stress through the body. Strength training helps the body cope with these demands, especially during high mileage training, reducing risk of injury.
2 Power – a more powerful muscle makes you more efficient and can help increase running speed. You can generate greater force with each strike of the foot, meaning you can either run at the same speed with less effort, or run faster. Most of us will not have the need for a Mo Farah type final lap, but if you see the finish line, you may require some form of sprint finish to complete the PB.
3 CORE Strength Means Speed – If you have a strong core you will be able to maintain good posture for longer. Without it you may finish the final stages of a marathon in what looks like quite a slumped position. Watch this in slow motion and the foot is likely to be landing in front of you causing a breaking action. Staying tall allows your legs to complete the full cycle, landing underneath you and generating more horizontal force. This put less stress through the body with each foot strike meaning you finish longer races in better condition. It also allows you to maintain speed. The CORE is also the link between the upper body and lower body, which are required to work in unison to run most efficiently. Linking the two with a strong CORE enables the body to work as one, without any energy being wasted.
4 3 to 1 – the ratio of training that should focus on the legs to upper body. 3 leg exercises for every one upper body exercise.
5 Posterior Chain – lots of people rely too heavily on the quads when running. Work on your glutes and hamstrings for optimal performance. Be prepared to perform exercises slowly to allow the muscles to fire in the correct sequence.
6 Single Limb Exercises – running is a sequence of single limb exercises with each foot striking the ground individually. Building in exercises like single leg squats, lunges and single leg deadlifts can hope the body cope with the demands of the activity. Single leg exercises are great for improving balance, an often-overlooked requirement when running.
7 Mobility – the volume of training takes its toll. You need to look after your body. Build in mobility exercises to your routine allowing you to relax and move fluidly.
8 Bodyweight – in advanced cases you may see distance runners using resistance in the form of free weights. But there is no need to load the bar unnecessarily. Bodyweight exercises with correct form can be of huge value and provide the required level of strength for optimal performance.
9 Planes of Motion – although you are largely going to travel in relatively straight lines, there is still a benefit to lateral and rotational training to make you better equipped. When running there is some rotation taking place at the hip and shoulders for example, and adding rotational exercises make you stronger through these movements.
10 DOMS – think carefully about when to introduce strength training. When you are in the high mileage section of a programme, or in the last month before an event, you will not gain huge benefits from adding something new into the mix. At these times running is the priority and strength training may create some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that can make training harder and have a detrimental effect on performance. Add strength training between training programmes and then maintain it during, rather than adding it in late.