Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

shutterstock_159245441-631x421Strength training has long been thought of as a training method only needed for sprint and power athletes. But there’s plenty of evidence available indicating the importance of it for both novice and elite endurance runners, Peter Feain explains.

Strength training means lifting heavy loads for few repetitions, using free weights or machines in a gym. It can also be completed using just your own body weight, otherwise known as plyometric training. Endurance athletes, especially runners, will argue that they don’t need to do any strength training because they don’t need to be strong. However, if you want to get the most out of your training and run as fast as physiologically possible, than you better get lifting – Here’s why:

Speed – Whether you want to run a pb for 5k, 10k, 21k or a marathon you need top end speed. Strength training increases the percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers and the body’s ability to recruit them, meaning you can develop more power and hit and hold higher speeds.

Running economy – Strength training will make you a more efficient runner through an improvement in the body’s ability to utilize the stretch-shortening cycle (the storage and use of elastic energy – like a kangaroo bouncing!), improved motor unit recruitment and synchronization, increased intramuscular glycogen and increased enzyme activity.

Injury reduction – Strength training increases bone, tendon, ligament and muscle strength more so than just purely running will. This occurs because greater loads are being lifted and a stronger body means a more durable body. Weight training is also a great way to focus on specific muscles to decrease muscle imbalances and get all the right muscles switching on.

Body composition – Resistance training can increase fat free mass and will decrease body fat levels, meaning come race day you are leaner and meaner!

Cross training – It’s winter, it’s cold and wet outside or you just don’t feel like running. Strength training is a great way to not only make you stronger but it will also help you maintain your aerobic fitness through increases in mitochondrial and capillary numbers, resistance to fatigue, rate of force development, buffering capacity and metabolic enzyme activity.

When introducing strength training into your running program remember to start slowly and ideally in your ‘off season’ to allow your body to adapt to the new training stimulus. yYou are going to be sore from the first few sessions!

Here is an advanced level weight-training program for a runner:

Deadlifts 3 sets of 8 reps
Bulgarian split squats 3 sets of 8 reps
Single leg curls on swiss ball 3 sets 8 reps
Single arm cable rows 3 sets 8 reps
Dumbell press on swiss ball 3 sets 8 reps
Pallof press 2 sets 8 reps
Hanging leg raises 2 sets 8 reps