Combining Strength Training and Running Program – Weight Training For Runners
Combining strength training and a running program together can be a difficult balance. Should you rest on the days when doing strength training? How much should you do? And how does it affect your running training?
In this article, we show you how to combine strength training with running so you can get the most benefit out of it.
Why Incorporate Strength Training into Your Running?
First of all, a strong, stable, coordinated body is less prone to breaking down. That is because the body is generally more resilient to the training load you place on it. In general, runners who combine strength training into their running plan have better running form and are less likely to pick up injuries. This is mainly due to the fact that strength training helps you develop your running style. It also helps lessen the impact of running by adding more muscles to the bones, reducing some of the load on the skeletal system.
However, improving your running style is not only one of the positive reasons to add strength training to your running program. Since running requires stability and balance, it is important to strengthen muscles that support this.
If you are someone that often struggles with stress fractures, combining strength training and a running program together can help prevent future stress fractures from arising.
This study from The Journal of Human Sport and Exercise examined a group of middle-distance runners during an 8-week strength training program. During this study, they focused on the runner’s physical changes. This included aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, economy, time trial performance, and lower body power.
After the 8-week strength training plan, they found that skinfold was reduced by nearly 5mm, and the runners improved by 5-6 seconds over 600m to 1800m distances. They also found that the runner’s lactate threshold improved which coincides with the improvements over the distances tested.
Overall the authors of the study determined that strength training helped improve economy, performance, and strength within middle-distance runners.
How Many Days a Week Should I Strength Train?
The number of days you should be combining strength training and running will depend on how far out your goal race is. Injuries and the time of the season also play a factor in how many days a week you should add strength training into your week.
Ideally during winter and early in the season, you should be focusing on strength training at least 3-4 times per week. As you get closer to the event, you will then move into maintenance mode, which means reducing the number of days to twice a week.
While everyone responds differently and the strength program you follow may be different, it is a good starting point for someone looking to combine running together with strength training.
Just remember strength training for running follows a periodization similar to that of running. So it is important to set up your running strength training plan to include recovery weeks and a variation of exercises.
Do I Need to Do Runner-Specific Strength Training?
If you are a beginner runner, generally no. The strength training you should implement in the beginning will help build up general strength. However, there are some key strength exercises you should do when combining strength training and running program. Some of these exercises include:
– Russian Twists
– Overhead lunges
– Single-leg deadlifts
– One-legged squats
– Rotation Shoulder press
Circuit training is another form of strength training a running can add to their program. Not only does it help build strength and resilience, but offers another form of aerobic exercise. When circuit training is done the right way, it can be a great running-specific strength workout that can be implemented in your training plan.
One of the benefits of circuit training for the runner is they can customize the workout. That means that they can either focus on endurance, intense cardio, or strength and plyometrics.
An example of a simple circuit training plan for runners involves only body weight. Start by:
– Run for 400 meters
– Perform 20 bodyweight squats
– Perform 20 push-ups
– Perform 20-30 burpees
– Perform 20 forward lunges
– Hold the plank position for 60 secs.
Start by taking 1-2 minutes of recovery between each circuit. Then once you have completed the above, repeat up to 3-4 times.
Both circuit training and weight training can be combined into your running training plan. However, it is important to split these sessions apart from any specific running workouts you may be doing, especially if they are of high intensity.
However, if you are an experienced runner you may find that you will focus on more specific workouts related to running. This includes plyometrics and similar movements with weights that you experience when running. This will allow you to focus specifically on the muscles used in running under load.
How to Combine Strength Training With Running
Strength training is a long-term progression, which means that it is important to focus on progressive overload. So in order to continue to improve your strength, you have to consistently increase weight or repetitions.
This concept is applied in most sports, whether you are cycling, running, or weight training. All sports require progressive overload to see improvement. However, this doesn’t mean you should be stacking on the weights every week. Look for long-term progression and follow a periodization formula to allow for specific periods and recovery.
So how do you combine strength training with running?
If you are just starting with a weight training plan, it is important to separate any strength training from specific running workout days. This includes interval workouts, Fartlek, tempo runs, and long runs.
Doing so will allow for adequate recovery and allow you to hold better form in the weights room. A sample week can look something like this:
Monday – Rest or recovery run
Tuesday – Specific Workout (intervals, tempo run)
Wednesday – Easy Run followed by a strength workout (lower body)
Thursday – Easy Run
Friday – Strength training workout (lower body)
Saturday – Easy Run followed by a strength workout (upper body)
Sunday – Long Run
Many studies and evidence show that combining running and strength training can improve muscular strength, bone density, cardiovascular fitness, and performance.
However, strength training requires more recovery than running alone. That means that high-intensity strength training should never be performed before a hard run unless you have allowed for adequate recovery time (24 hours).
Remember, just like you running training, allow for adequate recovery and continue to apply training load. If you do this correctly you will find your running fitness will improve and you will become more resilient to injuries.
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