Strength training can be a very confusing part of exercise and wellbeing for many as it predominantly holds connotations of enormous bulging muscles. However, strength training actually relates to any exercise that has a positive strengthening effect on the muscles of the body. This can refer to anything from the breathing muscles of the diaphragm through to explosive muscle control for jumping or muscle bulking for bodybuilding.
Along with improving the amount of weight that you can lift, strength training actually provides many other benefits. For example, stronger muscles help improve our posture, better support our joints and reduce the risk of potential injury. An increase in lean muscle tissue can also improve your metabolism, which helps with long-term weight loss goals.
It is the way in which you design your programme that creates the different effects within strength work and not just the ability to do as many exercises, lifting as heavy a weight as is physically possible.
Some of the key training benefits within strength work for running are outlined below:
Functional strength endurance work
Running requires a coordinated pattern of muscle recruitment that produces motion around the joints and creates the power to make you move. Therefore, improvement and maintenance of musculoskeletal health through resistance training will enable you to withstand light loads over a longer period of time and help to prevent repetitive stress that can be placed on the body.
Incorporating functional strength endurance weight based training (typically using a repetition range of 12-15 with a combination of lower weight and higher reps) will encourage strength and assist in injury prevention.
Resistance band work can also be very effective in the area of strength (and flexibility too). You don’t necessarily need lots of big or expensive equipment to be able to achieve results and see gains.
Functional strength endurance work will not have a bulking effect on the body but can help to build stability in many of the supporting muscles of the body and is a technique widely used in circuit training and activities like Pilates.
Performance strength training
Predominantly used by more experienced runners searching to improve their performance speed and rate of movement. The inclusion of strength training (a low repetition range with heavier weight) combined with power based training and plyometrics will increase power output and consequently improve your ground speed.
Strength training uses heavy weights to create a great deal of fatigue in the body causing controlled damage to the muscle tissue and ensuring that the body repairs the fibres bigger and stronger than before in an attempt to protect the body and prevent the muscle tissue being torn again.
Alongside this, power training should be introduced. This is the ability to lift heavy weights with explosive fast movement and can be directly applicable to running. Although using heavy weights, the aim here is not to put on large amounts of muscle but instead to maintain a good power to bodyweight ratio. Within this format of training you would use heavy weight with only a few lifts, long rest periods to maximise recovery and combine the programme with muscular endurance to strengthen the stability of the muscles.
Females should not shy away from the styles of training mentioned above and you too can benefit from strength training. Your testosterone levels are about 10 times lower than a man’s so there is no chance of you waking up having developed a six pack overnight. With serious strength training you can gain good lean body mass while losing fat mass at the same time. It has also been proven that a well designed strength programme can elevate your metabolism, for up to 38 hours after you have finished training in comparison to pure cardio style training where calorie burn is halted shortly after the end of the activity.