We were recently asked the question, “What is the best strength training routine for runners.” Since this wasn’t the first time we were asked this question, and since we’ve also had the privilege of working with some of the top runners in Spokane, Washington and Mt. Spokane High School history (Johnny and Hayden Dressel), plus one of Coach Jessica Rundle’s hobbies is running, we thought this would make for an excellent blog piece.
Why should runners do more training than just running?
This brings me back nearly a decade to a lecture on sports performance training when I was studying for one of my certifications. The speaker was an Olympic Gold Medalist Marathon runner and his whole speech was on how much better of a runner he could have been, had he only committed to more training than just running.
Runners need more than amazing slow twitch (endurance) muscles. A strong and balanced core, along with enhanced total body strength could be the difference maker in the last leg of a race!
What is the ideal training protocol for runners in need of strength training?
For optimal muscle and strength gains, runners should commit to a dynamic warm up, strength training workout, run, then stretch. Or, dynamic warm up, run, stretch and have separate strength training days for best results. Either method will work, but separating strength days will enhance strength and muscle growth further then the alternative. However, method one is more efficient on time.
Dynamic Warm Up– series of movement drills to warm up the body, increase blood flow and enhance range of motion gradually. Ideally one should be at a sweat before strength training or running.
Strength Training Period- the best method of strength training for runners are total body movements with an emphasis on core training. This allows for quick, effective, all-purpose and total body strength movements that can be done in a short amount of time while enhancing muscle endurance. As well, these movements involve a constant element of core control, which in turn is great for developing core strength. Additional, isolated core training exercises should be performed after the primary strength phase.
Run- either by alternating running with the strength period or immediately following, running can be improved upon at either time. Anaerobic activities such as strength training require more glycogen (muscle fuel) for optimal strength gains. If these stores are depleted before strength training, with an activity like aerobic exercise (running) the body finds an alternate fuel source, body fat, muscle or both. However, muscle/strength gains will be severely diminished with this method.
Stretch- stretching is one of the most underutilized and misinterpreted practices. Stretching is terrible for cold muscle fiber, but a game changer for warm, elastic muscles. Flexibility, range of motion and recovery are all enhanced greatly when proper stretching techniques are used post-workout.
I hope this helps answer your query on how strength training for runners can help develop lean muscle and strength gains. If you’re a runner in need of taking your pace to the next level, try our free workouts , join our online boot camp, or come meet us in person for our Mead/Colbert Washington area boot camp at Mt. Spokane High School or a park near you.
Cheers to the faster you!
Fitness Professional | Mt. Spokane High School Strength Coach | Nutritionist