Strength Training for Runners: Build a Stronger Running Spring
by Mike Herrera, DPT
Strength training for runners is extremely beneficial to allow your body to improve your elastic recoil, to absorb forces and propel you into your next step.
Research shows us targeted and specific strength training can help runners of all ages improve their running economy. In previous blogs, we have discussed exercises ranging from body weight and resistance bands. As we know, running demands 2.5 to 3 times your body weight every step and therefore, we should advance towards heavier loads to prepare our bodies for these increased forces.
Let’s break this down to address your biggest areas of focus.
1. Deadlift Pattern for Horizontal Force
To improve power, your body should be able to produce force with a deadlift pattern.
Horizontal Force Exercises for Runners:
a. Romanian Deadlift (3 sets x 8 reps w/ goal of achieving just greater than 1.5 x body weight)
b. Kettlebell Swing (3 sets x 8 reps)
2. Squats for Vertical Force
You should also be able to produce vertical force which will allow for propulsion and absorption/recoil.
Vertical Force Exercises for Runners:
a. Split Squat (3 sets x 8 reps)
b. Squat (3 sets x 6 reps with goal of achieving 1.5 x body weight)
3. Core Control
Now that you’ve established power, your body must be able to hold this together to connect your legs, maintain a stable core and provide postural support.
Core Control Exercises for Runners:
a. Suitcase Carry (4 sets x 45 seconds)
As you advance with your strength routine, you must have the ability to maintain core stability with the deadlift and squat pattern. This is where specific core progression matters. As you learn to control this with movement, your ability to advance strength and progressive loading will improve.
How to Load
Your goal is to progress your load as you are able, without degradation of form. As you load/fatigue, you'll begin to notice breakdown of your foundational movement patterns. This is not an opportunity to power through, but to reduce load and isolate your dysfunction. Once corrected, you'll be able to advance through your heavier strength regimen.
I’ve heard multiple times from runners in the community that strength training with weights includes the fear of ‘bulking up’. To be clear, strong is always better than skinny. When you create a more powerful spring, you can more efficiently run throughout the gait cycle with increased support, power and endurance.
Feel free to reach out with questions or for more ways to build strength training into your running program!