3 benefits of beginning weight training for runners

June 27, 2022
1. Improves performance

Running economy is a crucial component of endurance running performance. At various running speeds, your body uses the amount of oxygen shown here. Strength training has often been demonstrated to increase the running economy. Research shows that more economical runners can utilise their energy more effectively during their runs. Improving the running economy can help people go farther and faster. This is because strength training can enhance the use of elastic energy, meaning you're better able to propel your body forward, reducing the amount of work the muscles need to do. Examples of this include heavy resistance exercise (squats or leg press) or body weight plyometrics (jumping & hopping). Even running speed can be increased by strength training. Strength training may alter our brain and nerve system, which may explain why our muscles are better equipped to deliver force during movement. This may be especially helpful in middle-distance sports, such as running competitions between 800 and 3,000 meters.

2. May reduce injury risk

Running has some drawbacks, including a comparatively increased risk of leg, foot, and ankle problems from overuse. According to some studies, almost 40% of runners sustain an injury every year they train. Strength training can, however, help runners endure fewer overuse problems. This could be a result of strength training's beneficial effects on the health of bones, muscles, and tendons. The iliotibial band syndrome, a frequent knee injury brought on by the iliotibial band (which extends from your pelvic bone to your knee) rubbing on your hip and knee bones, can be prevented by strengthening hip abductor muscles, which help maintain stability during movement. Ankle strength, a known risk factor for Achilles tendon injury, can be improved with strength training. While there is some encouraging preliminary evidence that strength training lowers the risk of injury in runners, more studies are required to confirm this. However, according to general recommendations, runners can prevent overuse injuries by engaging in short-duration, high-intensity strength training, such as lower-body resistance exercises (such as squats and lunges).

3. Improves the way you run

When we run, the majority of the energy we expend is used to move our bodies forward and support our body weight. Therefore, if a runner can lessen the amount that their center of mass (the body's equilibrium point) travels up and down (known as vertical oscillation), they may run more effectively. To comprehend this, we must think about Newton's laws of motion. We combat the acceleration of our body mass toward the center of the earth caused by gravity by exerting a force that is both equal to and opposed to that acceleration. Our center of mass will move downward as we exert this force more slowly, increasing the amount of time our foot must remain in touch with the ground throughout each stride. We can lessen this motion and "spring" back more readily each time our foot makes contact with the ground if our muscles and tendons are stronger. Strength training increases our muscular and tendon strength as well as our ability to exert force quickly. This is one component that contributes to the improvement of our running economy. Other studies have demonstrated that strength training enhances thoracic and hip biomechanics, which should, in principle, result in an improved running economy. Therefore, squats, lunges, and step-ups, which develop strength in the torso and lower limbs, may be beneficial for runners.

Getting started

It’s recommended that runners do at least 2-3 strength training sessions a week for at least six to 14 weeks to start out with. There are many different types of strength training that are likely to be effective, but heavy strength training—lifting big weights—and plyometric training—exercises that involve jumping, hopping, and skipping—have been found to improve performance the most. Anyone who wishes to begin strength training as a runner should work with a professional, build up gradually, and strive for consistency. Starting with lower impact activities like box jumps or skipping, plyometric training should gradually increase in difficulty. We advise using whole-body exercises for strength training, like squats, lunges, and step-ups. Along with improving running performance, resistance training has many other health benefits, with just 30-90 minutes a week being sufficient to lower risk of premature death from all causes. We'd also advise exercises that aim to strengthen specific muscles that are vulnerable to overuse injuries, such as the calves and hip muscles.

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