Strength Training for Runners

Strength Training for Runners

Should runners do strength training or should they just run more? What one is going to give the greatest gain in performance and injury prevention? Strength training for runners has always been a bit controversial as some coaches argue that it not worth it and the runner is better of using the time to run more miles.

The evidence and anecdotal experience is, yes, endurance runners will benefit from a strength training program in addition to racking up the miles on the road. This has been shown to improve performance and may also help prevent overuse injury. This may be even more important for older runners who muscles strength declines quite rapidly after the age of 50 years.

What exercises should runners do?

There is plenty of detail and advice available elsewhere as to what exercises runners should do, but they should primarily focus on:

  • the calf muscles with calf raises
  • the quadriceps with leg extensions, squats and lunges
  • the hip abductors with an elastic band around the ankles
  • the core with planks

These would be the main ones. There is no harm in including upper body and arm exercise in to develop an all round fitness, but increased strength there is probably not going to be related to increased running performance or injury prevention.

Is Overpronation a problem in runners?

If you read in many places, you would think that this thing of “overpronation” is evil and something that runners must do about if they have it. Overpronation is when the rearfoot rolls inwards at the ankle and the arch collapses. Foot orthotics and motion control running shoes are widely advocated to treat this. It is quite common to see this advanced as quite a problem in running magazine and running shoe websites. This has been linked to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, medial tibial stress syndrome and runners knee.

On the other hand, you have this video of Haille Gebrselassie running and very severely overpronation. Yet he was at the top of his game and never had any problems with his overpronation. This has led to lots of debates in professional circles and social media about this overpronation.

The reality is that if you read the actual scientific evidence (summarized here), yes overpronation is a problem, but a small problem, though statistically significant. It does increase the risk for a range of injuries in runners, but only a small amount.

The whole area is subject to many myths and to see clearly through it is that you need to stick to what the actual data and evidence shows. The above video of Haille Gebrselassie is an anecdote and not scientific evidence. As pointed out here, you can’t bring anecdotes to debates about data. There is really no debate, the evidence is quite clear on this.