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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: Maciej Szukała

Strength training for a runner can be a great diversion to a training plan. However, is it necessary? The gym is generally associated with building a lot of muscle mass and lifting huge weights. For this reason, most runners avoid it like plague. Find out if runners should do strength exercises.

Strength training for a runnercan be very beneficial. It is worth realizing that training in the gym does not have to translate into an increase in muscle mass (or to a small extent). First of all, it is a chance to strengthen the muscular corset, which is constantly activated during the run.

Should runners train in the gym?

Through properly selected exercises, you can improve the energy of muscle fibers - the fast and slow twitch ones. Contrary to appearances, both types of muscles are important for a runner.

The explosive force turns out to be necessary when climbing uphill, when we compete with gravity, but also during sprints. In turn, trained slow twitch fibers allow for a longer run without increasing fatigue and better tolerance of long mileage.

Strengthening the legs and gluteus muscles not only improves the pushing force and stride length, but also makes the entire structure of movement more stable and fluid. In turn, strengthening your back and abdomen makes it easier for you to maintain the correct posture during a long effort.

Strength training is irreplaceable not only in runs that take place in the mountains, but also during exercise that takes place on asph alt or indoor. Strong arms and shoulders allow for the intense work of the arms, which creates the pendulum and drives the work of the whole body.

If you've ever watched a 1500 or 3000 m running competition (not to mention the sprints) you have surely noticed that the players are not overly thin. Interestingly, more and more marathon runners, and even ultramarathon runners, are becoming convinced of going to the gym.

Does the gym help reduce injuries?

It turns out that regular lifting weights strengthens joints and ligaments. It also has a positive effect on the density of the skeleton andmakes the muscles encapsulate the knees or the area of ​​the lumbar spine to a greater extent. Thanks to the creation of such a cover, the runner's body is less exposed to contusions and injuries, as well as the effects of overload.

This applies to both running on flat terrain and mountain runs, during which long stretches uphill put a lot of strain on the back.

Of course, use common sense. Excess muscle mass not only puts more strain on the joints, it also forces the heart to work harder, because it needs to supply the muscles with oxygen and make them move.

How often should runners do strength exercises?

You must remember that for every runner, exercises in the gym are a form of supplementary training. Of course, it is extremely important for the overall improvement of your form, but it will not directly affect your running performance and cannot replace it.

One of the key training principles common to all sports is the so-called specificity. It assumes that in order to become better in a given discipline, one must do the work specific to it. This is why swimmers primarily swim and cyclists ride a bike.

There is no golden recipe for combining running with a gym. Much depends on:

  • your fitness status and rate of recovery,
  • the time you have,
  • training phase (are you at the stage of building your oxygen base, or are you already preparing for the competition).

Most runners prefer strength training on their jogging days. Combining two training units on the same day requires a lot of experience and a thoughtful eating pattern.

Besides, the closer you are to your target running event, the more you should focus on maximizing your running form.

The best time to go to the gym for a runner is the general preparation period. Then you can easily perform up to 3 or even 4 workouts with weights a week. With time, you will probably reduce their number to 2 a week.

What makes strength training for runners different?

Runners' workouts in the gym do not resemble those training units that bodybuilders are used to doing. What should you remember when you supplement your running training with weightlifting sessions?

Use moderately heavy loads

Remember that your goal is not to build as much muscle mass and strength as possible. For runners, muscular endurance and general strengthening of joints and ligaments are much more important. Therefore, long series will be much better,up to several repetitions, but performed with a weight appropriate for 60-70% of your abilities.

Change training stimuli frequently

Running is a functional discipline, so it is worth differentiating not only the exercises, but even the devices you use to perform them. From time to time, replace the bars of barbells and dumbbells with kettlebells, medicine balls or training bands.

If you run regularly over uneven terrain, use barefoot balls and pilates to force your body to strengthen its deep muscles.

Focus on functional and multi-joint exercises

Strength training for runners is not about testing your limits and breaking life records. Instead of focusing on isolated exercises that improve the aesthetics of your figure, do multi-joint exercises.

A squat with a barbell on the shoulders, deadlifts, rowing or pull-ups will be perfect.

Do not try to reduce body fat as much as possible

While bodybuilding is a sport where low body fat is desirable, the question of body appearance is much less important in running. Of course, the lower weight of the runner will translate into greater speed and less strain on the knee joints and the heart, but do not overdo it.

Fat is an essential source of energy, especially in long-distance runs and ultra runs, and should not be restricted too much as it reduces the body's energy reserves.

Create a training plan that suits your needs

For optimal benefit through strength training, a runner should make a plan so that the whole body benefits from it. This means that split plans (consisting in dividing the exercised muscle groups into individual training sessions) will prove much worse than ABW (All Body Workout), which assumes strengthening all parts of the body during each training session.

Runners training and competing in the mountains can also modify the ABW plan, introducing priority for e.g. legs or back, but also without pursuing excessive muscle hypertrophy.

Of course, you can create a training plan yourself, but consultations with a personal trainer or an athletics trainer will bring much better results.

Use free weights, not machines

Although training machines in the gym may be tempting, try to do most of the exercises using free weights (barbells, dumbbells, weights). They enforce attention to body posture, strengthen the deep and core feeling much better than devices, even ifyou lift light loads.

What does a runner who starts working out in the gym have to remember?

If you want to supplement your running training with strength exercises, you need to remember a few key points that will ensure that you get the maximum benefit from both disciplines.

First of all, make sure you get the right amount of calories from wholesome foods. Your base training plan, extended by two or three weight sessions, requires you to consume more carbohydrates, which are used to regenerate muscle damage, as well as proteins and fats.

It is assumed that, depending on the intensity of the training and the weight of the exerciser, during a 60-minute exercise at the gym, you can burn from 200 to even 600 calories. You should increase your daily intake by this amount in order not to start losing strength.

A sports watch can help you calculate the amount of energy used. Many heart rate monitors with a wrist-based heart rate monitor give you an estimate of your calories burned during a training session.

In addition to consuming calories, you should also remember to stay hydrated. Contrary to appearances, not only aerobic training is dehydrating! Try to drink water regularly while exercising at the gym. Thanks to this, you will create favorable conditions for the regeneration of the body and supercompensation.

Finally, don't overdo your exercise intensity! The gym is only an addition to running, so if you put too much effort into it, the efficiency of your basic units will decrease instead of increasing.

Especially beginners, it is easy to fall into a vicious cycle leading straight to overtraining, because the first months of strength training will bring great results in the form of gains in strength and muscle mass. Then it is easy to believe that both disciplines can be trained with the same intensity.

Sample strength exercises for a runner

What exercises can you use to build your training plan? We have some suggestions for you:

  • lunges or lunges with dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells,
  • squat with a barbell,
  • toe up with a load,
  • pushups,
  • chin-ups,
  • rowing with a barbell in the fall of the torso,
  • push-ups on the bars (so-called dips),
  • entering or jumping on the plyometric box,
  • classic or single leg deadlift with kettlebell weights,
  • objection (for advanced users),
  • tearing (for advanced),
  • rope climbing (for advanced).

If you create a training plan yourself, try to choose the exercisesso that they engage all muscle groups. In this way, fitness will develop harmoniously. In the initial phase of training (the first few months), you can take breaks between exercises, as well as individual series to balance your breathing.

Remember to always start an exercise with a warm-up series and train the new movement with the minimum weight. In this way, the body will have a chance to learn it correctly, without adopting bad habits (characteristic of using too heavy weights).

As your form improves, link the exercises into circuits. This way you will build your muscular endurance to a greater extent.

Supplementation for a runner in strength training

Gym sessions will be more effective if you take care of carefully selected supplementation. Of course, the point is not to maximize the increase in muscle mass or to induce a "muscle pump", but to increase the exercise and regenerative capacity of the body. Which nutrients are best for this purpose?

  • protein supplements - help to supplement the diet with wholesome protein and accelerate regeneration,
  • creatine - accelerates ATP resynthesis and creates favorable conditions for muscle regeneration,
  • beta-alanine - increases the body's efficiency,
  • branched chain amino acids - accelerate the regeneration of the body,
  • caffeine - energizes and increases exercise capacity,
  • citrulline - increases the body's efficiency and accelerates the removal of metabolites from working muscles.

Correctly selected supplementation in combination with diet and training will make your results in the gym (and indirectly also in running) appear faster and will be durable.

Strength training can be a perfect complement to a runner's activity. They will not only provide your body with completely new stimuli, but also prepare the body for more effort and make running training more effective.

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