One of the big questions that every runner asks is: “Should I do be doing strength work as well as my run training?”
The simple answer is yes. But before you start throwing the kettlebells around there are a few other crucial steps to tick off; the big one being joint stability.
Joint STABILITY is defined as the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) and the neuromuscular system.
For runners, stable ankles, knees, pelvis and hips are essential. Instability of these joints can cause unhealthy ranges of movement in your joints, which can result in the joints spraining, straining and fracturing.
Muscular STRENGTH is defined as the maximum amount of force that a muscle (or group of muscles) can exert against a resistance in a single effort.
For runners, strong legs (quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves), feet, glutes, core and lungs are essential. Weakness in these muscles means reduced performance and endurance.
Stability and strength are both important but they are different, and working to improve your strength, before you have mastered your stability is counter-productive.
Start with stability
The first goal for any runner should be to stay injury free.
If your hips and pelvis are doing a hula dance every time you run; you need to work on stability. Have a friend film you and watch your technique.
If you continually roll your ankle every time you run; you need to work on stability.
If your knees roll inwards or wobble around when you run or climb stairs; you need to work on stability.
To develop stability in these areas you need the following:
- Correct alignment
- Strong muscles and connective tissue around the joint
- Neuromuscular control
Completing Pilates and balance exercises can help you target various joints to improve stability as a whole. You don’t need to be adding extra weight to build good stability in your joints. Simply use your bodyweight and work through slow and controlled movements. The ones I love that you can do at home are:
- Single leg hopscotch
- Box step ups/downs
- Pilates single and double leg stretch
- Glute bridges
- Planks and side planks
Once you’ve got stability – start building strength
Runners don’t need bodybuilder-sized muscles, but you certainly want muscles that can survive the distance. We’re talking about building endurance for legs, core and spine. Compound exercises are best, that is multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time. The ones I love that you can do at home are:
- Deadlifts, especially single leg deadlifts
- Walking lunges
- Glute bridges or hamstring curls
- Planks and push-ups
How often should you train for stability and strength?
Well, it depends…on your goals, your past injuries, your current limitations and fitness.
If you’re in pain, injured, or recovering from injury, book yourself into a physiotherapist for an assessment and they’ll help prescribe you with a plan of action.
If you’re feeling healthy and you want to make improvements to your performance, book yourself in with a coach to have your movement patterns assessed. You’ll learn what joints need more attention and what you can start strengthening straight away.