How can Strength Training reduce the risk of running injuries and improve performance
Running is one of the most accessible, popular forms of exercise worldwide. One reason could be because of the many mental and physical benefits, beyond what you may have first thought is possible. For example, a 2018 meta-analysis study found that by running just once a week could lower all-cause mortality by 25 to 30 per cent compared to non-runners. This is not to mention the positive impact on sleep, osteoarthritis, stress and anxiety, immunity, cognitive function and blood pressure.
Whilst running has great benefits, 50 per cent of runners get injured each year. In theory, the only way to totally prevent running injuries is to stop running, which I do not advocate. However, there are many things we can do to reduce the chance of injury. In short, runners get injured when there is a change that happens too quickly. This could be training intensity, distance, recovery, footwear, stress levels, and cross training. From a professional perspective, the risk of injury from running can be strategically reduced through a variety of methods including strength training.
So why strength training?
Although strength training for runners is often overlooked, there are many reasons why it should be part of any running programme. Firstly, building strength can help to increase speed by improving neuromuscular coordination and power output. Secondly, it can reduce the chance of injury through improved tissue tolerance, whilst allowing your body to run for longer with improved coordination and stride efficiency. Strength training can be a vital piece of the puzzle for anyone who struggles with regular running-related aches and pains or has plateaued in their training.
A dynamic strength routine can decrease the chance of developing a sports injury to less than one-third. Using strength training for such injuries is both accessible and effective. This does not have to be complicated as you can start with bodyweight exercises at home before adding extra weight.
There is no one size fits all approach to injury prevention and rehabilitation. When looking for the right type of strength training for an ongoing or new injury, it is important to find the correct guidance on the specific exercises used. Another important consideration during this rehabilitation process is to avoid sudden big changes in training. Instead, you should target key muscle groups in the surrounding area, progress the exercises when the discomfort is settling and discover movements that feel good for your body.
You may be wondering what strength training for runners should look like. This will depend on the person’s experience, goals, training load and spare time, previous injuries and available equipment. Generally speaking, you should aim to start with compound lifts which include multiple joints and muscle groups. For example, squats, deadlifts, and rows. After this you should aim to progress to single-leg exercises such as Bulgarian split squats, calf raises, single-leg Romanian Deadlifts and plyometrics. Finally, core exercises such as the plank and some upper body movements too (which are still important for runners).
The key thing to remember is that most strength training plans will look different from person to person. This is because they are tailored around specific injuries, weaknesses and individual capacity as mentioned above. At Bristol Osteopaths you will receive a multi-faceted treatment approach that will aim to relieve symptoms, assess/improve movement and build resilience.
Felix Adamson-Walter M. Ost
Wells Road Clinic