How To Add Strength Training Without Wrecking Your Legs And Your Running

How To Add Strength Training Without Wrecking Your Legs And Your Running


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Strength training is an incredible tool to help you become a stronger, faster, and injury resistant runner. But when not done properly, strength training can also wreck your legs and impact your running workouts or races.

In this episode, we take you inside our thoughts on the matter and share our tips to help you integrate strength training into your running program. We’ll show you why it is important, and how to add it to your program in a way it doesn’t overwhelm your body.

Benefits of Adding Strength Training to Your Running Program

  • A strong muscle is an injury resistant muscle
  • A strong muscle is a muscle that is slower to fatigue
  • A strong muscle promotes the potential to increase your speed when matched with a solid training plan, nutrition, and execution
  • It helps with metabolism and fat loss
  • It can help build mental toughness and persistence

What Type of Strength Training Should We Focus on as Runners?

As runners, we want to focus on a multi-faceted, integrative strength training program.  Often runners will build their exercise sets using more traditional bodybuilding style exercises.  With our PaceBuilders clients, we stay away from bodybuilding and focus on functional strength, mobility, flexibility, quickness, balance, and stability. Bodybuilding is typically about increasing muscle size and that does not necessarily translate into the type of strength that runners need. Runners need the strength that best matches the natural movement of the human body when running or doing other types of full-body exercises.  Bodybuilding is typically focused on muscle isolation.

How Do We Add Strength Training to a Running Program

  1. 1
    First of all, there is no one size, fits all approach to adding strength training to your running routine.  It depends on the individualization that makes up you, your goals, and where you are with your running and training. When we work with our coached athletes, before we add strength training, we try to gauge where they are at and before adding weights or complex movements, we start with creating a stabilization routine. We use a stabilization routine to get them used to strength training.Here is why.  In the beginning, most runners are new to strength training and need to ramp up slowly in order to minimize the chance of injury. In other words, we want to get people used to the increase load that weight training has on their body. If a runner has a history of consistent strength training, then we move on to more advanced power and strength routines.
  2. 2
    If you are new to strength training,  the best place to start is thinking core.  You would think that runners want to strengthen their legs (and that is true),  but runners need a strong core. Core strength involves all the major and minor muscles of your glutes, hips, back, abs, quads, and hamstrings.
  3. 3
    Beyond core, we also focus on calf muscles, and other muscles of the lower leg and feet.  This is where a lot of our stability and balance drills come into play. All runners should have a mix of core and stability/balance exercises in their routine.
  4. 4
    Once a runner gets used to our stabilization routine and stability/balance exercises get too easy, we start to incorporate either (a) added weight or (b) new variations of an exercise that makes the exercise more complex. For example, we may add weight to our squats and lunges or if we are doing single leg balance drills and they become too easy, we add things in to throw us off balance. 

Some Techniques that Work Well for Runners

  • Using BOSU balls
  • Foam pads
  • Closing your eyes
  • Extending the opposite leg

The Recommended Products that Can Help With Balance and Stability Training

Last update on 2021-01-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-01-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Challenges of Balancing Strength Training with Running

The biggest challenge we have found with runners is making time to do strength training or we find they are doing the wrong things.  While something is usually better than nothing, this lack of consistency, or doing the wrong thing often fails to achieve the results the runner has set out to achieve. Most of us are time restricted so we want to know what is the best use of our time.
We can help with that, and provide specific exercises based on your situation, your areas of weakness, or just help you get started.

Balancing strength training with running is also a challenge.  With strength training, we tend to scale it up and down based on a runner’s training cycle. For example, we do more in the off season, and less during the season, especially during periods of peak mileage or taper.  We DO like to see 1-2 days a week for most training weeks, with each workout day consisting of a full body workout.  If a runner we are working with is focused on weight loss or weight management vs. race performance, we usually will increase strength training to at least two days, and in some cases, three. It just depends on the runner and whether or not we are mixing up our workouts with other forms of training, specifically speed workouts or HIIT training. If so, we may keep the runner at two days per week.

So, that is how we do it and what we would recommend for most recreational runners.  Factors like age, genetics, injury risk, level of fitness, overall health, ability to train, the level of goals they wish to obtain with their running and so on, all have a part in our decision and if you build your strength training plan, you should consider those as well.

We go into a lot more depth inside the podcast episode,  so we hope you will check it out and subscribe on any of the popular podcasts directories.

Thanks and Happy Running!

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About the Author Steve Carmichael

Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach who has helped thousands of runners since 2010. He coaches online as well as locally in the Columbus, Ohio area. He is host of RunBuzz Running a top rated running podcast with 150+ episodes available for free on all major podcast apps. Steve resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife, kids, and dog.

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