Running strength is essential to you because it is the foundation on which quality running stands. If the muscles are not strong enough and the joints are stable, we are at a high risk of injury.
Our running technique is ineffective. Although at first glance it seems that they have nothing to do with each other, running as a “cardio” activity and strength as an anaerobic activity – are interdependent.
More efficient running (technique)
When we see someone running beautifully – a straight spine, built step, serious speed, high frequency of steps etc. We must know that such a thing is not possible without strong muscles and stable joints. Insufficiently strong muscles cause compensations in other muscle groups that take over their function, thereby impairing the efficiency of movement.
For example. insufficiently strong glutes result in excessive work of the quadriceps and small pelvic muscles (piriformis). Also, the stability of the pelvis is impaired and then there is a “wobble” of the pelvis from left to right, which impacts the iliotibial band and leads to a frequent running injury called ITB syndrome.
We need strength for running as injury prevention
In addition to the primary function of movement, the muscles and the joint system also have cushioning functions. Running is an aggressive activity for our tissues. During each step (landing on the ground), our body suffers a return force that is distributed first in the foot, then in the ankle, knee, hip, and spine. If the muscles are strong enough, they absorb most of that force. But if they are not, the impact goes to the joints and tendons. And hence the largest number of running injuries, and inflammation of tendons and ligaments. With muscle strengthening, the situation changes, and injuries disappear.
Running strength is specific if we run long distances
Muscle strength is the ability of muscles or muscle groups to develop force by contracting muscle fibers per unit of time. There are different forms of how strength manifests itself: as maximal strength, explosive strength, static strength, endurance strength, etc. In long-distance running, we are most interested in this type of strength, which is related to endurance. To the ability to exert adequate force during contractions until the end of the activity, which does not impair the efficiency of movement.
Top runners who have this ability are recognized by their elongated, spindly muscles with great muscle tone. These are not hypertrophied muscles like in bodybuilders. That is why training for this type of strength differs from classic training in the gym.
In addition to working with weights, this type of strength is also developed when running uphill, up stairs and wearing a weighted vest.
Strength training program for runners
If we want to achieve the maximum in the field of strength training, the first step is a periodization of training. This means that we will divide our racing season into periods in which various phases of strength training will be realized, it is not always done the same way.
Here’s an example of what strength training periodization might look like in a half-season of racing:
- Anatomical adaptation phase (4-6 weeks). The goal of this phase is to prepare the muscles and the entire locomotor system for the efforts that will follow. The tasks are to master the correct technique for performing the exercises, increase the density of the capillaries that feed the muscles, and adapt the tendons and ligaments to higher weights. There are two pieces of training per week, and the number of repetitions in the series is from 12 to 20.
- Hypertrophy phase (4-6 weeks). The goal of this phase is to increase the muscle mass that will be used in the following phases. There are 3 pieces of training per week, and the number of repetitions per series is from 6 to 10.
- Maximum force phase (2 weeks). The goal of this phase is to stimulate the neuromuscular system and achieve maximum muscle strength. There are 2 to 3 training per week, and the number of repetitions is from 1 to 4.
- Strength and endurance phase (6 weeks). The goal of this phase is to develop a specific type of strength. The number of training is 3 per week. And the number of repetitions is from 12 to 30 depending on the muscle groups being treated.
- Maintenance phase (4 – 6 weeks). This phase coincides with the period of the main races and aims not to develop. But only to maintain the acquired level of strength. There are 2 training sessions per week. The training load is determined depending on the individual characteristics of the runner.