Do Runners Need Resistance Training?

While running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that provides a myriad of benefits, such as strengthening your heart, boosting your endurance, and burning calories, it primarily focuses on the cardiovascular system. However, to truly excel as a runner and reach your full potential, it’s important to consider incorporating resistance training into your routine. By complementing your running workouts with targeted strength exercises, you can unlock a whole new level of performance and prevent injuries.

What is Resistance Training?

Before we dive into the main question, let’s quickly define what resistance training actually means. Resistance training, also known as strength training or weightlifting, involves exercises that work against an external force to build muscle strength, endurance, and power. It typically involves using weights, resistance bands, or even bodyweight exercises to challenge your muscles. While cardio exercises like running primarily focus on improving your cardiovascular system, resistance training targets your muscles and bones, providing a host of benefits for overall performance.


Do Runners Need Resistance Training?

Now, let’s address the big question at hand: Do runners need resistance training? The answer is a resounding yes! While running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, incorporating resistance training into your routine can greatly enhance your running performance and help prevent injuries. Research studies have shown that runners who include resistance training in their workouts experience improved running economy, increased muscular endurance, enhanced power output, and reduced risk of overuse injuries.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of combining resistance training with running on running economy, which is a measure of how efficiently a runner uses oxygen while running at a given pace. The study involved two groups of runners: one group that only performed running exercises and another group that combined running with resistance training. The results showed that the group that incorporated resistance training into their routine experienced a significant improvement in running economy compared to the group that only ran. This suggests that resistance training can enhance a runner’s efficiency, allowing them to maintain a faster pace or run longer distances with the same amount of effort.

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Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports focused on the effects of strength training on running performance. The researchers divided recreational runners into two groups: one group that performed strength training exercises, such as squats and lunges, in addition to their regular running, and a control group that only continued with their running routine. After a training period of eight weeks, the group that incorporated strength training demonstrated a significant improvement in running performance compared to the control group. The strength training exercises helped increase muscle strength and power in the lower body, leading to enhanced running performance.

These studies provide valuable insights into the benefits of resistance training for runners. By combining running with resistance exercises, runners can improve their running economy, which translates into better efficiency and potentially improved race times. Additionally, strength training exercises help develop stronger muscles in the lower body, which are essential for running stability and power. By including resistance training in their routine, runners can not only enhance their performance but also reduce the risk of overuse injuries by strengthening the muscles and bones that support their running activities.


10 Best Resistance Training Exercises for Runners

When it comes to resistance training exercises for runners, there are numerous options to choose from. Here are ten of the best exercises that target key muscle groups involved in running:

1. Squats: Squats are a fundamental lower body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They help improve lower body strength and stability, crucial for generating power while running.

2. Lunges: Lunges work the muscles in the legs individually, targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. They also enhance hip flexibility and stability, mimicking the running motion.

3. Deadlifts: Deadlifts primarily target the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This exercise helps improve overall strength and power, which can translate to more efficient running.

4. Step-ups: Step-ups simulate the motion of running and strengthen the muscles in the legs. They particularly engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes while also challenging your balance and coordination.

5. Calf raises: Calf raises isolate and strengthen the calf muscles, which are crucial for propulsion and stability while running. They can be performed using bodyweight or with added resistance like dumbbells.

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6. Planks: Planks are an excellent core exercise that targets the abdominal muscles, back muscles, and stabilizers. A strong core is essential for maintaining proper running form and preventing injuries.

7. Russian twists: Russian twists engage the oblique muscles, which are responsible for rotational stability. Strengthening these muscles can enhance your running posture and stability.

8. Hip bridges: Hip bridges activate the glute muscles and improve hip mobility. Strong glutes contribute to better running form, power generation, and injury prevention.

9. Resistance band exercises: Resistance bands are versatile tools that can be used to add resistance to various exercises like clamshells, lateral walks, and monster walks. These exercises target the hip abductors and external rotators, helping to strengthen and stabilize the hips, which are essential for proper running mechanics.

10. Medicine ball exercises: Incorporating medicine balls into your resistance training routine can provide functional strength and power training. Exercises like medicine ball slams, rotational throws, and single-leg squats with a medicine ball can improve explosive power and overall athleticism.

Remember, it’s important to perform these exercises with proper form and gradually increase the intensity and resistance as you progress. If you’re new to resistance training, consider working with a fitness professional to ensure you’re using correct technique and designing a program that aligns with your running goals and fitness level.

How to Include Resistance Training into Your Running Schedule

Incorporating resistance training into your running schedule can be highly beneficial for improving your overall performance and reducing the risk of injuries. Here are some tips on how to effectively include resistance training into your routine:

Start gradually: If you’re new to resistance training, it’s important to start gradually. Begin with 1-2 sessions per week to allow your body to adapt to the new demands. Focus on learning proper form and technique for each exercise before increasing the frequency or intensity.

Alternate days: Schedule your running and resistance training sessions on alternate days. This approach allows for proper recovery between workouts and prevents overexertion. For example, you could run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and perform resistance training on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Prioritize key running days: Identify the days in your running schedule that are most important for your training, such as speed workouts or long runs. Plan your resistance training sessions on days that are not as demanding for running, such as easy run or rest days. This ensures that your legs are fresh for key running workouts.

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Warm-up and cool-down: Before starting your resistance training session, spend a few minutes warming up your muscles with dynamic stretches or light cardio exercises. This helps prepare your body for the workout and reduces the risk of injury. After each session, cool down with static stretches to promote flexibility and aid in recovery.

Integrate it strategically: Consider the timing and order of your workouts. If you prefer to do your resistance training and running on the same day, decide which activity to prioritize. Some runners find it beneficial to perform their strength training before their run to ensure they have enough energy for the resistance exercises. Experiment and find what works best for you.

Seek professional guidance: If you’re unsure about how to design a resistance training program or which exercises are most suitable for you, consider consulting with a certified strength and conditioning specialist or a running coach. They can assess your specific needs and goals and provide personalized guidance to help you incorporate resistance training effectively into your running schedule.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to seeing improvements from resistance training. Aim for at least two sessions per week and gradually increase the intensity and volume as your strength and endurance improve. Listen to your body and adjust your training as needed to prevent overtraining and injuries. By finding the right balance between running and resistance training, you can enhance your running performance and enjoy the benefits of a well-rounded fitness routine.

Final Words

In conclusion, resistance training is a valuable addition to any runner’s training regimen. Not only does it improve running economy, muscular endurance, and power output, but it also helps reduce the risk of overuse injuries. By incorporating exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts into your routine, you’ll develop stronger muscles and bones, ultimately enhancing your overall running performance. So, lace up those shoes, hit the gym, and get ready to take your running to new heights with the power of resistance training!

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