Strength training is an integral part of any well-rounded exercise program.
That said, weightlifting is still a foreign concept to many runners. What a big mistake!
Strength Training is King
When it comes to cross-training, no other form of exercise is backed by more academic literature.
In fact, strength training is one of the most researched areas of exercise and conditioning.
The performance gains have been demonstrated across a wide range of disciplines, regardless of the athletes’ background or the demands of the sport.
In other words, the (relatively) stronger you are, the more athletic you’re going to be.
So, as a runner, you’re leaving a host of performance gains on the table when shunning strength training.
The Ultimate Goal
The primary purpose of strength training is to build full-body strength and power—especially in the main running muscles.
When done right, regular resistance training can help improve your technique, boost your stride turnover, and lower your risks of getting injured.
For these reasons, resistance training is an ideal complement to a runner’s road work and what I regard as the ideal cross-training exercise.
The remainder of this post delves a little deeper into the most common benefits strength training offers.
So are you excited?
Then here we go.
6 Benefits of Strength Training For Runners
Strength training is training in which your muscles are worked against resistance, which increases muscular power and endurance.
The resistance may be provided by a rubber band, free weights—think dumbbells, universal machines, and bodyweight exercise—or calisthenics.
The choice is yours.
Without further ado, here are the main reasons you need strength training in your life as a runner.
1. Run Faster
Resistance training puts stress on your body, forcing it to adapt to boost its ability to withstand the extra load.
Over time, with regular training, these stress-induced adaptations can have an enormous impact on your running speed, efficiency, and endurance.
So, for instance, the stronger your leg muscles get, the more force you could generate on each stride, and the more distance you can travel on each foot strike.
Plus, stronger shoulders and arms are essential in increasing your speed and form efficiency.
2. Fix Muscle Imbalances
Running is one-directional action, meaning it works some muscles more than others, leading to the onset of muscle imbalances.
This places excessive pressure on ligaments and tendons, reducing stride efficiency, limiting running economy, and increasing the risks of injury.
Research shows that, often than not, many runners nagging issues, such as shin splints, runners knee, Achilles tendinitis, etc., stem from muscle imbalances.
With all that being said, the good news is, as little as six weeks of proper weight training can reduce, or completely alleviate, knee pain, according to a study.
3. Improved Running Form
Your upper body muscles—mainly the shoulders, arms, upper back, and chest—help keep stand tall, chest open, and maintain upper body and pelvis stability.
For example, one common trait of good form is an erect, straight posture with the chest out.
That said, if you lack sufficient upper body and core strength, it’s almost impossible to maintain that proper running posture.
What’s more, strong core muscles ensure a smooth transfer of the forces generated from the arms to the legs, helping you expend less energy, run faster, and more efficiently.
4. Burns More Calories
Many runners took up running as means for weight loss. And as my experience dictates, running is helpful for shedding the pounds—especially during the first few months of training.
That said, once your body gets used to running (especially if you lack variety in your training), it’ll start to burn fewer calories.
For that reason, you might want to back up your running for weight loss training with a well-rounded and intense strength training schedule.
As a matter of fact, by increasing your lean muscle mass, you’ll boost your body’s ability to shed more calories.
5. Build Stronger Bones
In addition to helping you prevent injury, improve running performance, build muscle, lose fat, strength training also improves bone density.
This can be typically measured using a DEXA scan, which is imilar to an x-ray, but more thorough.
But how does strength training make bones stronger?
It’s actually quite simple.
By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density, therefore, reducing the risks of bone-related issues. That’s it.
This is especially the case for us runners as stress fractures—a common overuse injury—is every runner’s worst nightmare.
For the full scope on a stress fracture, check my full guide here.
6. It Requires Little Time
You don’t need to train like an elite bodybuilder or CrossFitter to reap the benefits of strength training.
In fact, all you need is no more than 30- to 45-minute session, two to three times per week to reap the benefits of strength training as a runner.
Here is the full guide on starting strength training for runners.
And here are a few of my favorite strength routines to try.
Note: Strength training should be performed according to your fitness level and training goals.
For that reason, you need to opt for a well-rounded strength program designed specifically to meet your running needs.
This is why a sprinter strength routine can look so different from a long distance athlete program.