In his first Fast10 blog of 2020 Paul Navesey talks about the importance of picking things up and putting them down again.
Picking things up in a variety of ways can help your running performance. It’s true you know.
There are lots of benefits to weight training. Whether that weight is created via your own body, resistance bands or a whole stack of big heavy looking round plates if you are James Turner (Powerlifter turned sub-elite endurance athlete).
Carrying out strength exercises that require the use of more than one muscle group, compound exercises, will require the synchronisation of motor units from multiple muscle groups. Groups of motor units work together to produce muscle contraction within a single muscle.
By using compound exercises you can train the body to synchronise motor units enabling a greater rate of force development during muscle contractions and to coordinate multiple muscle groups to function in synergy.
In short – you can produce more force by recruiting more of the muscle you already have. Which is nice.
Address or prevent asymmetry
I imagine it will come as no surprise that whilst running you spend a lot of time on one foot. So each limb is carrying out it’s role independently.
By including single leg exercises during your strength training you can identify an imbalance, address that imbalance then reduce the impact it has on your training. Removing inter-limb asymmetry will have a positive effect on injury reduction and therefore consistency.
Filtered instagram abs are not a measure of core strength. In my opinion, core strength in relation to running is represented by the ability to maintain effective posture whilst all your limbs are moving. Effective weight training will help enable you to maintain your form during movement and into fatigue.
Running produces rotational force on the torso, so become strong at that movement. Learning how to hold the body still is great if you are short on time and space but creating a body that is strong in the areas required for endurance running is better. Twisting exercises, plank variations that require rotational movement and challenges to balance are great.
You’ll run faster
Ok, nipping to the local leisure centre once or twice in your race build up won’t have a huge effect. Including weight training into your schedule will have positive effects on power, injury resistance and therefore training consistency. It isn’t going to complete the jigsaw for you but it could be an important edge piece that kickstarts your progress!
How to build a training plan
Firstly, ensure you have had instruction on correct lifting techniques, if in doubt ask someone to teach you or start by carrying out the compound movements on a machine such as leg press.
An effective warm up is important, mobility and activation prior to lifting. Make the most of resistance bands and dynamic movements.
Start with a compound movement. Deadlift & squat variations are great examples. Continue your warm up here, start light. Even with an empty bar. Ensure you are able to carry out the lift properly and gradually add weight.
Example would be sets of 8-6-4-2 leading to your desired work weight. Then target a set of 3-6 repeated 3-6 times with plenty of rest 2-3mins. This is allowing you to lift an effective amount of weight for the desired outcome.
Follow this up with your sport specific or prehab/rehab specific weight exercises.
Focus on single leg activity where possible. This is an area that can really help reduce imbalance between limbs. Some examples of single leg exercises are lunges, step ups, split squats & single leg deadlifts. Targeting a set of around 8-10 repeated 3-5 times.
Continuing the single leg approach, look to include your less heavy prehab/rehab work. Typically bodyweight exercises that are very focused and are carried out for more reps. You can always bring back in your resistance bands here. Exercise examples here would be hamstring/glute bridges, lying side raises, clams & calf raises.
If you have physio advice on these exercises then follow them but these are typically safe to do until relative fatigue. Alternatively to address an imbalance begin with your weaker side, work until relative fatigue then match that number with your stronger side.
This phase can also include simple plyometric work. Box jumps are great but standing on the floor and jumping on to a box is not plyometric.
As a runner, one of the greatest benefits of plyometric exercise is reduced ground contact time. So you need to be working toward achieving that in your exercise. The easiest way to begin is with small exercises such as ankling. This can be safely increased by adding in the use of a skipping rope. Then onto further progressions such as hopping for distance.
Getting to the core of it
Last but not least, core stability. The above exercises, performed correctly will all have some improvement on your core strength and stability. Running encourages rotational movement and therefore it is important to be strong in this movement. Focus on core exercises that require you to produce, control or resist a rotational force. Exercise examples would include pallof press, cable twists, side planks with leg lifts or rotations.
The internet is full of examples, both good and bad of weight training programmes and demonstrations. I find UKSCA a very useful source of information and a real life person is a great start to get advice on any lifts or movements you are unsure of.
Talking of UKSCA, they published this example of a training session template to target inter limb asymmetry. I have used it myself and think it is a great example. The exercises should of course be amended to suit your ability.
Paul is a Level 3 Personal Trainer delivering 1-2-1 training sessions, group PT and sport specific Strength & Conditioning. And he’s a bloody fast marathoner too.