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Resistance Training For Runners

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

Resistance training is an important aspect of a runner's training programme. Not only can it help improve performance but it can significantly help reduce the risk of injuries. However, too often we see that runners are leaving out resistance training from their programmes or they are not utilising it optimally. In this blog post we are going to look what resistance training is and how it will benefit you as a runner.

Athletes running
Many runners do not incorporate resistance training in to their training programmes.

What is resistance training and what impact does it have on our bodies?

Resistance training involves any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance . The external resistance is usually dumbbells, kettlebells, exercise bands or your own body weight but it could be any other object you can get your hands on. Resistance training is based on the principle that the muscles of the body will work to overcome a force. When they are worked in this way, micro trauma occurs in the muscle tissue. With adequate nutrition and rest, the micro trauma is repaired and your muscles adapt and become stronger.

What are the benefits of resistance training for runners?

1. Reduce the risk of injury.

Our muscles are required to absorb high levels of load when we run, for example the soleus muscle (found in the calf) has to tolerate loads of up to 8 times your body weight when running. Injuries can occur when the load exceeds the tissues ability to cope with the demand. The stronger our muscles the more they are able to tolerate higher levels of load which can reduce the risk of injury.

The forces involved in the leg when running
The forces that muscles in the leg are required to tolerate during running

Resistance training also plays a significant role in the rehabilitation of an injury. Following an injury, tissues in the body can become less able to tolerate load and movement patterns can be altered. Identifying the tissues that are not able to tolerate load effectively or finding altered movement patterns may require some help from a physio or sports therapist.

2. Improve running economy

Running economy is the aerobic demands of running. Put simply improving your running economy means you will use less energy and require less of it for the same effort. Therefore improving your performance. Research has consistently shown that resistance training combined with endurance training can significantly improve running economy. A stronger muscle is able to transfer load more efficiently and this means less energy is used when you are running allowing you to run further and faster.

3. Improve bone density

Resistance training doesn't just benefit muscles, it has a positive impact on your bone density. Resistance training places load on the bones which leads to the stimulation of cells that develop and remodel bone. It is therefore beneficial in the prevention of osteoporosis and could also play a role in reducing the risk of stress fractures in runners.

How often should I do resistance training?

Performing a strength training session twice per week (alongside your normal training) for at least 12 weeks is thought to be most beneficial for runners to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Ensure you have adequate rest between your running and resistance training sessions. Running on tired legs that are recovering from resistance training could increase your risk of sustaining an injury.

How Much Load Should I Use?

Greater performance benefits are reported in runners who incorporate both heavy and explosive resistance training. Lifting loads of 60 - 80% of 1 rep max for 3 - 6 sets of 5 - 15 repetitions is recommended to improve performance.

Resistance training can help improve running economy and performance as well as help in reducing the risk of injuries.


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