Updated: Jan 3, 2022
Strength training is a proven way to improve running economy (feel better), improve performance (do better) and decrease risk of Injury (do more)
Research supported benefits of strength training for runners and endurance athletes:
-Improvement in running economy. Increased running speed and power output at VO2max and Wmax (power output for cyclists). Increased time to exhaustion at VO2max and Wmax. Improved running performance and cycling performance. “This may relate to delayed activation of less efficient type II fibers, improved neuromuscular efficiency, conversion of fast-twist type IIX fibers into more fatigue-resistant type IIA fibers, or improved musculo-tendinous stiffness”. (1)
-Increase in both short and long term endurance capacity in sedentary and trained individuals. Improve lactate threshold in untrained individuals during cycling. (2)
-Improve performance and aerobic capacity in a 4km time trial, improve VO2 Max, and time to exhaustion. (3)
-Effects of an 8-week training program with three groups: Heavy resistance training, explosive resistance training, or muscle endurance training. Researchers found significant change with: all three groups had increased leg muscle activity, maximal endurance running performance. All three groups had small, but non-statistically significant improvements in VO2max and running economy. Additionally, heavy and explosive training groups had statistically significant improvements in maximal strength; the heavy group improved maximal running speed in the maximal aerobic running test and jump height. Thus, all 3 forms of training were beneficial, with heavier strength training particularly improving high-intensity running characteristics- helping in shorter races and end of race kicking. (4)
-This is from a systematic review, meaning the authors searched and reviewed many other articles that included the parameters: middle- or long-distance runners with >6months experience, a strength training intervention lasting 4 or more weeks, and a running only control group. Their findings were that there is inconsistency with how the research has been performed thus far, but most of the results show that strength training improves running economy, time trials, and sprint performance. There is also the general findings that body composition was not negatively impacted. Overall conclusion: adding 2-3 strength training sessions per week is likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners. (5)
-A similar systematic review with meta-analysis (compiling of results) on the effect of strength training programs on running economy, this time on HIGH-LEVEL middle- and long-distance runners, found a large, beneficial effect on running economy. They note that some of the programs only used low to moderate training intensities and low to moderate training volumes for 8-12 weeks. (6)
-This review discusses the many benefits of muscular strength and factors related to an athlete’s performance. This includes decreased risk of injury, improved ability to jump, sprint, and perform change of direction tasks. (7)
-For those with Iliotibial (IT) Band syndrome-In a 2000 study at Stanford University, researchers measured the difference in hip strength between healthy runners and those with IT band syndrome. All 24 of the injured runners had significant hip abductor weakness. After a 6-week hip strengthening program, 22 of the 24 runners reported being pain free and after 6 months all 24 had returned to full training. (8)
-For those with knee pain or “runner’s knee”, researchers in 2007 found hip abductors and external rotators were significantly weaker in female athletes who had “runner’s knee” compared to pain free runners. The authors recommend all injury-prone runners perform specific, running-relax hip strengthening routines. (9)
If that is not enough to convince you to start strength training consistently, I don’t know what would be… Zenith is run by, and for runners. Contact us to find out how we can help fit strength training, and all it's benefits, into your life.
1) Rønnestad BR, Mujika I. Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Aug;24(4):603-12. doi: 10.1111/sms.12104. Epub 2013 Aug 5. PMID: 23914932.
2) Tanaka H, Swensen T. Impact of resistance training on endurance performance. A new form of cross-training? Sports Med. 1998 Mar;25(3):191-200. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199825030-00005. PMID: 9554029.
3) Chtara M, Chamari K, Chaouachi M, et al. Effects of intra-session concurrent endurance and strength training sequence on aerobic performance and capacity. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(8):555-560. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2004.015248
4) Mikkola J, Vesterinen V, Taipale R, Capostagno B, Häkkinen K, Nummela A. Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. J Sports Sci. 2011 Oct;29(13):1359-71. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.589467. Epub 2011 Aug 22. PMID: 21854344.
5) Blagrove RC, Howatson G, Hayes PR. Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Med. 2018 May;48(5):1117-1149. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0835-7. PMID: 29249083; PMCID: PMC5889786.
6) Balsalobre-Fernández C, Santos-Concejero J, Grivas GV. Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Aug;30(8):2361-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001316. PMID: 26694507.
7) Suchomel TJ, Nimphius S, Stone MH. The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance. Sports Med. 2016 Oct;46(10):1419-49. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0. PMID: 26838985.
8) Fredericson M, Cookingham CL, Chaudhari AM, Dowdell BC, Oestreicher N, Sahrmann SA. Hip abductor weakness in distance runners with iliotibial band syndrome. Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Jul;10(3):169-75. doi: 10.1097/00042752-200007000-00004. PMID: 10959926.
9) Cichanowski HR, Schmitt JS, Johnson RJ, Niemuth PE. Hip strength in collegiate female athletes with patellofemoral pain. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Aug;39(8):1227-32. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3180601109. PMID: 17762354.