Why you should add strength training if you’re a runner
Strength training along with cardiorespiratory endurance training (cardio) improves distance running performance more than just cardio alone. This was demonstrated in a recent study published in Sports Medicine (2019) when the researchers examined timed trial results and running economy. 1
Training for both strength and endurance can improve a run by two methods of adaptation:
- Increasing maximal running speed.
- Improving the economy of running (energy required)
Both of these changes allow the runner to achieve faster speeds, and preserve energy for the last legs of the race. These changes often don’t accompany improvements in VO2max, BMI, or muscle hypertrophy. This suggests that running improvement isn’t facilitated by improved cardiorespiratory fitness.
It is hypothesized that the adaptations afforded a combined training approach are due to changes in biomechanical and neuromuscular variables that allow one to rapidly generate high forces during sustained endurance running. There was significant improvement in force generating capacity in the lower extremity found in this study which play a crucial role in propulsion and acceleration during running. These forces can translate into larger stride lengths and faster speeds.
If you are thinking of increasing your load, make sure you seek professional advice so as to avoid injury.
- Trowell, D., Vicenzino, B., Saunders, N., Fox, A., & Bonacci, J. (2019). Effect of Strength Training on Biomechanical and Neuromuscular Variables in Distance Runners: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 1-18.
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