Did you know running produces forces up to 2-3x your body weight through each leg with each stride during your run? That’s a lot of stress on your body especially for avid runners who go on longer runs and run several times throughout the week. It is important to keep this in mind to understand why strength training is very important for runners too! In order to adequately support the body with that amount of force, it requires strength throughout the entire body but especially in the back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. During running there is never a point where both feet are on the ground. Therefore, single leg training must be incorporated in your workouts.

Single-Leg stability, balance, and strength is needed in running to:

  1. Properly absorb the impact through your built it shock absorbers (aka muscles).
  2. Keep you upright during each phase of running.
  3. Effectively and efficiently propel yourself into the next stride.
  4. Decrease injury likelihood.

When categorizing running we tend to place it in an endurance and/or cardio box. This is usually true; However, short sprints can be more power/strength based mixed in with cardio. That being said, when a runner hits the weights to build strength, we need to pay attention to the type of strength training being performed. To start, we need to make sure we are not replicating the same type of endurance stimulus in the gym. This means for true strength workouts runners should not go to the gym and only perform high reps (12 or more) with lighter loads. This continues to improve the cardio and endurance aspects of training (which is good) but does not achieve the strength gains needed to adequately support the body. In order to perform true strength training, it is ideal to incorporate heavy loads with low reps. For hypertrophy, (growth in the literal size of the muscles) typically >60-70% load of your one rep max (1RM), 3-4 sets with 8-12 reps, and 30-60 sec rest period in between sets is needed. For true strength gains 80-90% load of your 1RM, 3-4 sets with 1-8 reps, and a 90-200 sec rest period in between sets is needed.  Below is a table from the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Manual that helps summarize the amounts of reps needed depending on the training goal:

Now you may be wondering “Okay great, but what exercises should I be doing as a runner then?” 

Come back next week and we will have some exercises for you to get started on that will incorporate the single-leg strength, balance, and stability needed in all runners!

-Dr. Arron Pierce PT, DPT