When it comes to strength training, most runners are interested in exactly how little gym time they can get away with in order to see maximum results.
The good news is that two forty-five minute sessions per week will work very nicely for most and not take too much away from time on the roads, track or trails.
Here, with his top five tips for success when hitting the weights room, is strength coach and ASICS Frontrunner Pete Stables (pictured below).
Your first session of the week should put a focus on (relatively) heavy weights for low reps using large, multi-joint exercises, such as squats, presses and deadlifts. Shoot for three to five repetitions at 80-85% of your one rep max.
Heavy weights for low reps force the body to recruit maximal muscle fibres to move the load. Training your body to do so with a linear progression in weight lifted, over time, improves neural efficiency whenever the body is called upon to engage a large cross section of muscle fibres, such as during a sprint, running hills or making a final push for the finish line. The second benefit of incorporating heavy compound movements is the subsequent increase in tendon, ligament and bone strength, creating a more durable athlete. A more robust runner will likely spend less time injured and benefit from a longer training life.
Focus on big, compound movements
Running is a low amplitude sport, which simply means that we use a very small range of motion when we run, and over time the muscles that we do use can shorten or become stiff. Many of us suffer with tight hip flexors, calves, Achilles... you name it. By choosing exercises such as squats or deadlifts, we push our joints and muscles through a full range of motion under load, improving both muscular strength and mobility. Think of these movements as large stretches for tired or tight muscles.
Your second session should incorporate higher rep work at lighter weights. 10-20 reps at 50-60% of your one rep max. The idea is to increase muscular endurance. Lifting for 10-20 reps with a slow tempo creates a significant burn in the muscles due to the accumulation of lactate and, with repeated exposure over time, it is possible to raise our lactate threshold.
I like to use variations of the big compound lifts for these sessions, such as lunges, step ups or box jumps, dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts, hip thrusts, upright rows, and bent rows or pull ups (banded or assisted if you are unable to complete a full pull up)
Incorporate single leg work
During your second session, opt for single leg variations of the big compound movements. Pistols, single leg deadlifts, dumbbell bench press, overhead dumbbell presses and dumbbell or ring rows should feature in your training plan.
Running isn’t really a two legged activity. There is never a time during a run when both feet are on the ground and as such, balance plays a large role in our chosen sport. If your balance is compromised then your muscles work less efficiently and the body is then called upon to recruit more of the larger muscles to keep us upright which means more work, more fatigue and a reduction in running economy.
Work your posterior chain
The glutes are one of the most important muscle groups when it comes to running efficiently due to their role as hip stabilisers and hip extensors.
‘Dormant’ glutes have been a buzzword in the physical therapy world for many years now - and for good reason. Due to an inordinate amount of sitting, whether at work or in cars, many athletes suffer from ‘sleepy glutes’ and the subsequent consequences of racking up mileage with a posterior chain that is not driving optimal forward motion, with additional stress being placed on the lower back and knees.
Exercises such as donkey kicks, hip thrusts, single leg kettlebell deadlifts, and pistol squats are ideal choices to work your lazy butt muscles.
And there you have it.
If in doubt as to how to put together a training plan, perform the aforementioned exercises or test your one rep max, always seek the guidance of a professional.