Curious about how strength training can help you improve performance and prevent running injury?
Then you have come to the right place.
Whether you’re looking to improve your speed and endurance or simply to get in better shape, strength training can get you closer to your goals.
Although the best way to improve your running performance is to log in more QUALITY miles over time, there are many non-running things you can do to help you become a better runner.
That’s why cross-training is an important aspect of training—regardless of your running goals, especially strength training.
I’ve already written plenty about the importance of strength training for runners. Still, in today’s post, I decided to zone in on the many ways that lifting weights and getting stronger can protect your body from injury and improve performance.
Let’s get started.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training, or weight lifting, consists of performing reps of a moment against an external force—or resistance. That force could be gravity, an elastic band, a dumbbell, or a weight machine, but the changes taking place internally at cellular levels are mostly the same.
Strength training helps to improve muscular strength and power, tendon strength, bone density, joint mobility and stability, and endurance—all of which, as we’re going to see—is key for preventing injury and improving athletic performance.
Let’s explain some of the ways that strength training helps reduce injury risk.
Improve Running Economy
Running economy plays a big role in how far and/or fast you can go. Running economy refers to the amount of oxygen your body burns off at various running paces. Improving it can help run farther and faster.
Of course, don’t take my word for it.
Research has reported that the more economical runners can use their energy more effectivity during their training and races.
So what does this has to do with lifting weights? Many studies have reported that strength training can improve running economy.
Strength training, whether in the form of resistance exercises such as deadlifts and squats or bodyweight plyometric—think box jumps and frog hops—can enhance the use of elastic energy. This, in turn, improves your body’s ability to propel forward, decreasing the effort the muscles need to do.
Improved Bone Density
Research has reported that performing a weight-bearing activity is the best way to increase bone density.
One of the best weight-bearing activities for this is lifting weights. You’re, after all, working against gravity and resistance.
So why is this important?
Stress fractures are one of the most common injuries among runners. By improving your bone density, you also reduce the risk of forming these annoying and notorious fractures—which means fewer injuries overall.
In other words, your bones will get stronger since they have to work harder when your body has to support the additional load. Stronger bones will help you enjoy a longer-running career and hopefully lower your injury risk.
Fix Muscle Imbalances
Most overuse injuries in runners can be blamed (partially or fully) on muscle imbalances, a common issue among runners due to the repetitive nature of the sport.
When a muscle group is used less during a movement, it may become weaker than its antagonist. This can prove problematic the more you use that area, whether it’s just a joint, ligament, or a specific bone. Overuse injuries often start this way.
The maximal contraction from the stronger muscle can also irritate the opposing muscle, thanks to the inability to counter the force.
Here’s the good news. When following a balanced strength training plan, you’ll help reduce—even eliminate—these muscle imbalances. By following a balanced plan, you’ll need to help counter these side effects by strengthening the underperforming muscles to balance with their counterparts.
Improve Core Strength
It may sound like a shock to you, but your core is the foundation of your running movement.
Plenty of research has drawn strong connections between core strength, running performance, and injury rate.
Fortunately, when you perform the core-specific exercise, strength training promotes the development of enough and reliable core stability and strength.
As a runner, it’s key to have stronger core muscles so that extra stress isn’t placed on your lower back and lower body which can cause pain and injury.
A strong core can also help you build and maintain proper running posture and technique, which is key for efficient and pain-free running.
Improve Form & Posture
Are you having trouble maintaining proper form during long runs?
Then you likely need to build stronger muscles that can help you withstand the extra load and fatigue.
After all, logging the miles can take a toll on your muscular strength, too, not just your lungs.
By building total-body strength, you’ll be able to keep and maintain proper posture and technique. This, in turn, translates to better efficiency, which can make a huge difference, especially in those long runs.