How important is strength for running?
In general we may say that the longer the running distance is, and/or the lower the speed is, the less important strength training will be for the performance. And vice versa; for the shorter distances and for higher speed, strength is more important and consequently training of strength is more essential. Sprint running is an example of the need for very high power and strength in order to be able to run at maximal speed over a short time period. Running as such is in general training for endurance, which means increasing the capacity of the heart and lungs. However, a good strength is essential also for long distance running, and in this article I will explain why.
Running means a high load on your body
When you are running, your legs are exposed for a high load. The impact is several times larger than your body weight – weight x 9.8 m/s2 – for every step you make. This is caused by the sudden stop every time you land and the acceleration every time you start a step. The highest load is from the landing, which causes the muscles to vibrate due to the impact. The muscles and the skeleton have a high ability to adapt to the load they are exposed to, however when a load higher than the body is used to, is repeated over a long period of time, and without sufficient time for rest and recovery, the risk for overload injuries is high.
The positive effects of strength training
Well adapted and correctively performed strength training will strengthen muscles and tendons in such a way that these structures will be able to absorb higher loads before the overload limit is achieved. This is the reason why preventive strength training is an important part of training for running. Strengh training will also have a positive effect on the physical economics of running, leading to a more efficient running pattern.
Due to the fact that running consists of dynamic movements, it is more efficient to use dynamic strengh training exercises which are near to the movement patterns of running itself.
In addition to this, it is important to build up the strength of core muscles around stomach, lower back and hips. This because these muscles are contributing to stabilisation of the body during the running stride. We may call these muscles “synergists”, in the meaning they are assistant muscles during a good running stride.
Good strength in stomach, back and hips will assist in the transformation of the power from the legs into efficient movement in the direction of running.
Read more about preventive strength training and running injuries here:
- Running injuries
- Injury prevention – what to consider
- 8 strengthening preventive exercises
- Video gallery – preventive strengthening exercises
Author: Ingrid Kristiansen