I arrived limping, I left walking.
Tom, Maidenhead

I’m a runner, why should I include strength and conditioning in my training?

Strength and conditioning is a super important tool to any runner’s toolbox and is often under-utilised. Runners are often worrying about finding the time, feeling more fatigued and gaining too much mass. As long as strength training is factored in logically then fatigue should be negated, it can be logically fit in with other sessions and you should not put on too much body mass if at all!

So why should I strength train?

Running injuries are predominantly a result of a certain structure no longer being able to cope with the load currently been applied to it. Load can be both internal (perception of effort, hormones, sleep etc) and external (volume, intensity, frequency, type of training and how we currently run – link andrea’s blog here).

Strength training is likely going to have an effect on hormone changes and our perceived effort of running over time, but will also help cope with the peak forces that are involved in running.  This is strongly supported within the evidence base showing that strength training can reduce over use injuries by nearly 50% and can improve running economy quite significantly.

Some facts

When we run, we have to counteract anywhere from 1.5-3 x bodyweight (BW)! So, if a runner was to weigh in at 80kg and average 500 foot contacts per mile it would equate to:

80 x 2.5 = 200kg

200 x 500 = 100,000kg of load per mile!


Running also puts loads of around 6 x BW through both the calf and quadriceps. These loads seem extreme but we can replicate these peak forces by doing basic exercises such as calf raises and single leg squats with additional load.

How would  I factor in a strength training programme?

When you are within a ‘general preparation phase’ you should perform 2 sessions per week for 2-3 weeks. Off season and pre-season you should perform 2 sessions per week and when you are in season, you would generally only perform one strength session in order to maintain the gains that you have made.

I have heard there are different types of strength training? What should I do?

This will largely depend on your training history, what experience you have, where you are in your training cycle and injury history etc. However, to conceptualise this I like to look at a pyramid based approach, making sure you get a good base with ultimately a bigger peak.

Bottom Layer – bodyweight drills and muscular endurance: the purpose of this phase to improve a runner’s ability to remain upright, have good coordination and also have good work capacity within all the key muscle groups (gluts, quads, hamstrings, calves)

Second Layer –  External Load: In this layer, any exercises can be from the previous layer can have additional load applied or can be replaced by the classic squat & deadlift like patterns. The idea being the load applied will gain true strength whilst maintaining good control. Movements should be slow and controlled.

Third layer – Rate of force development: This would again involve similar exercises as within the second layer. However, these exercises would involve an element of ‘intention to move’ rather than moving slow and heavy.

Fourth layer -Deceleration and Plyometrics: This is where you would be looking at allowing the newly gained movement skill, strength and ability to produce force rapidly be utilized in a dynamic fashion. This would first require you to be able to decelerate movements such as drop lands, and then move quickly such as box jumps, drop jumps, skipping and hopping.

As with anything, strength training is complex, but can be simplified with the right kind of guidance.

If you’d like more advice or a one to one strength and conditioning session with one of our rehab specialists then call us on 01628639532!

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