Additional Benefits of Strength Training
Improved core strength equals faster running. A study on recreational and competitive runners added a core-training program, resulting in significantly faster five-thousand-meter run times over six weeks versus the control group that did not do extra core training.(1) Some of the runners were more conscious of using their core to stabilize their run form, and had a better understanding of body position and posture while running.
Both strength and performance benefits can be obtained and maintained with one to two sessions per week. The sessions also don’t have to be long. But they do have to be done at the intensity needed to result in the adaptations, and the selected exercises must target relevant muscle groups.
Strength training reduces age-related performance declines. A study from 2013 examined running economy and strength training in Masters runners.(2) In addition to the running performance benefits, the study found that adding strength training to the Masters runners program may help reduce age- related declines in performance. Therefore, if you are in that demographic and want to hold onto your run times as you get older, consider adding some strength training to your program.
Strength training reduces loss of stride length. As you get tired, your stride shortens, and this results in you going slower. Strength training has been shown to prevent or delay this shortening of stride that comes with fatigue. A study from 2008(4) compared three groups of middle-distance trained runners. Stride length loss at race speed was measured in all groups by having all the runners do a series of repetitions at race pace and measuring the difference of stride length in the third repetition compared to the last repetition.
Above is a comparison of the mean percentage of stride length (cm)/speed (SLS) loss be- tween the three study groups. Periodized = periodized strength training group; nonperiodized = nonperi- odized strength training group; control = no strength training group. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Vol. 22 (July 2008):1176–1183.4
One group performed an eight-week periodized strength training program starting with circuit training and light loads and transitioning to explosive movements, including plyometrics and higher-intensity, run-specific movements. The non-periodized group performed the same type of exercise, but with no progression or week-to-week variation. The third group did not strength train. All three groups performed the same run program during this time. When the same intervals were performed after the strength training periods, the group who had performed the periodized strength program was able to maintain their stride length during the intervals as they fatigued. The non-periodized program group experienced some stride-length loss with fatigue, but not nearly as much as the group who did not incorporate any strength training.
This is great information to keep in mind, especially for those who compete in running or run-related sports. One of my personal mentors in triathlon coaching likes to say that“The race is won by the person who slows down the least,” and that truly applies to the results of this study.
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