Whether you are a sprinter, middle distance, or long-distance runner, a properly executed strength training program will be the key to improving your running times.
If you’re a runner, you MUST strength train correctly. Running for distance, being aerobic in nature, will begin to break down good muscle tissue. You need a strength training program that will keep the muscle you have, and ultimately to build more muscle, that will carry over to faster running times.
Here are some tips to help you develop a strength training program exclusively for runners.
1. Emphasize Your Running Muscles
You should train all of your muscles thoroughly in any strength training program. The body works as a unit. Never neglect body parts, or favor other body parts simply because you like to train them. Give all of your muscles attention, but emphasize the ones that pertain to your sport the most. The running muscles, in order of importance, are Buttocks, Thighs, Calves, Shoulders, Chest, Back’ and Arms. When you design a full-body workout for running, try to work the muscles in this same order.
2. Train With Full-Body Workouts
Unless you’re a bodybuilder, you should train the full body with each workout. A bodybuilder who is trying to gain a lot of muscle would split their routine in order to work more thoroughly on each body part. An athlete should use strength training as a means to improve sports performance. A full-body routine properly addresses the needs of an athlete.
3. Train the Tibialis Anterior
The tibialis anterior is the muscle on the front of the shin. By working on this muscle, you keep a balance with the calves i.e. the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. You need to keep opposing muscles in balance to maximize performance and minimize injuries. The tibialis anterior should also be developed to minimize shin splints. You can perform a foot flexion exercise to work on the T. A. muscle. If you’re serious about running and don’t have access to a foot flexion machine, I’d suggest you get one.
4. Emphasize Your Buttocks Exercise
If you were asked to name the fastest land animals, you might say a cheetah or an ostrich. The interesting thing about these animals that run so fast, is that they have skinny legs, but very well-developed hinds (buttocks). The same with humans. Any runner, sprinter, middle, or long distance, should emphasize exercises that work on the buttocks area. If you have access to a Reverse Hyperextension machine you can work the area directly, with complete safety. If you don’t have one, a barbell full squat with work just fine.
5. Strength Train More Intensely Than You Run
When you strength train for running, you must strive to perform a set until you can no longer complete another repetition in perfect form. Obviously, you don’t run until you drop. That would be counter-productive, and dangerous. Strength training is completely different and should be treated as such. By strength-training a muscle to the point of momentary muscular failure, you set the stage for rapid strength gains in the muscle.
6. Strength Train Slowly To Run Faster
Any strength training exercise should be performed slowly and deliberately. This takes the momentum out of the exercise and therefore maximizes the amount of muscle fibers that are stimulated. A proper cadence when strength training should be about 2 seconds to lift the weight (when you contract the muscle) and at least 4 seconds to lower the weight (lengthen the muscle).
7. Add Weight or Repetitions Whenever Possible
It is so important for runners to try to add weight to an exercise as often as possible, or keep the weight the same and add repetitions whenever possible. This forces the muscles to adapt by increasing in strength. Runners need to do this because the very nature of frequent long runs catabolizes muscle tissue. Strength training in a progressive fashion will help preserve muscle, and ideally, add more muscle and strength to run faster, longer.