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Strength training for running is vital.

As the owner of a primarily weights-based gym in Nottingham, it gets assumed that we’d hate on cardio. 

Fair enough. A lot of the strength training community does. But it’s daft.

The line between weight training and cardio is blurred. Much more blurred than either camp will admit.

Weight training, done properly, will transfer over to increased running performance.

Running, and improving your cardio as a result, transfers over into higher general work capacity allowing you to weight train for longer, without being restricted by your respiratory fitness.

So, both camps can and should learn from each other. Strength training for runners is important.

But how? What’s the best strength training for running?

The casual runner (let’s say a 5k once or twice a week) can afford to do a lot of weight training and not really negatively affect performance. Most people can squat and run on the same day without too much drama. It gets harder to plan properly with more dedicated runners, as we’ve got to start worrying about fatigue and over-use injuries.

What sort of exercises will help strength training for running?

To a point, if you have more muscle, it doesn’t have to work as hard to achieve the same result. Adding more muscle to the legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves) will improve running ability and endurance…to a point. It also requires more oxygen to support it; so there is a cut-off where more muscle will impact negatively. 

The focus should be on building strength, without worrying too much about adding muscle. Muscle will grow as you get stronger, but for a serious runner, packing on too much muscle (easier said than done anyway!) will have a negative impact. You’ve got to carry it all on the run, after all!

Squatting, deadlift and various lunging movements help, keeping the volume of work low. 

How does this look in a training plan for a casual runner?

Monday: 5k run

Tuesday: Back Squats 5×5, Romanian Deadlifts 3×8, Split Squats 3×12

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Sprinter’s Leg Press 3×10, Box Step Ups 3×10, Calf Raises 3×15

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 5 or 8k run

Sunday: Rest

This supports the running without too much stress on the body. As you get used to the workload, you’ll find you can add more volume to the weight sessions, without impacting on the running.

We’re picking a nice mix of leg exercises here to help the hamstrings strengthen (they support and protect the knee) and lots of unilateral leg work to help equalise any imbalances.

The exercise sessions should only take 30 mins or so – leaving plenty of time for adding upper body exercises to help with making sure the whole body gets some weight training.

Try it for a few weeks – making sure you get instruction on any exercise you don’t know. There’s no point starting strength training for running to improve your running and then getting yourself hurt on day one in the gym!

If you need some expert guidance in Nottingham, get in touch. We’d love to help (and a couple of us are even the kind of casual runners we’re talking about!)

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