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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Strength Training Gets Me Faster and Cuts Injuries by 90%?

What if I told you that you could finally run injury free, crush ALL your PR’s, lose body fat, build LEAN muscle, and become a more efficient runner bio-mechanically?

You would probably say let me at it right?

Over 70% of today’s endurance athletes experience an injury that limits their training at least once in a given year. Of that 70%, most are not balanced and have proper muscle synergies. All that means is that, as a runner, you repetitively work the SAME muscle groups day after day and run after run.  Without proper training, this can lead to HORRIBLE imbalances and cause altered reciprocal inhibition and poor joint arthrokinematics.  Simply saying your muscles will NOT work properly and joints are not stabilized. 

Yikes!! Then, you said it, you get that injury that comes out of nowhere and you’re stuck saying, “Now how in the world did I do that?” This then forces you to take time off your favorite part of training and may force you to cross train or EVEN resistance train(which is exactly what every runner needs to do).

See, with the constant wear and tear on your muscles, you are not properly strengthening them to help with your running economy.  When you run, SEVERAL muscle groups are not being worked, such as parts of you hamstring, quad, and even hips. That is why you see so many runners with IT Band issues, Hamstring strains, and overactive medial quadriceps muscles.  

Well I am here to help! Did you guys even know that adding even a SMALL resistance workout a couple times a week can reduce injuries by 90%? Or how about that weight training can improve your 5k PR time by 3.1% and running economy by 4%!?

Reducing Injuries

In a study conducted in 2000 at Stanford University, researchers measured the difference in hip strength between healthy runners and those who suffered from IT band syndrome. All 24 of the injured runners demonstrated significant weakness in hip adductor strength. After a 6-week hip strengthening protocol, 22 of the 24 runners reported being pain-free. After 6-months, all 24 runners reported returning to full training with no further injury. Reference – Fredericson, M.; Cookingham, C. L.; Chaudhari, A. M.; Dowdell, B. C.; Oestreicher, N.; Sahrmann, S. A., Hip Abductor Weakness in Distance Runners with Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 2000, (10), 169-175.

Moreover, in a 2007 study, researchers found that hip abductors and external rotators were significantly weaker in runners who suffered from “runner’s knee” compared to those of healthy runners. In addition, injured runners exhibited global hip weakness compared with healthy runners. 

The study recommended that all injury-prone runners incorporate a specific, running-related hip strengthening protocol to their training to reduce injury rates. Reference – Cichanowski, H. R.; Schmitt, J. S.; Johnson, R. J.; Niemuth, P. E., Hip Strength in Female Athletes with Patellofemoral Pain. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2007, 39 (8), 1227-1232.

What About Performance?

The first study comes from a 1997 study in which six female distance runners underwent a 10-week strength program with weight sessions three times a week. At the conclusion of the study, cardiovascular markers like VO2 max had not changed, but the experimental group’s running economy jumped by 4% while the control group showed no improvement. Reference – Johnston, R. E.; Quinn, T. J.; Kertzer, R.; Vroman, N. B., Strength Training in Female Distance Runners: Impact on Running Economy. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 1997, 11 (4), 224-229.

Next, a 1999 paper published by the Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland had ten endurance athletes train for nine weeks, replacing about 30% of their normal running training with explosive strength training. A control group of eight athletes did almost no ancillary training. At the conclusion of the study, the experimental group had dropped 3.1% off their 5k time and boosted their running economy by 8%. Reference - Paavolainen, L.; Häkkinen, K.; Hämäläinen, I.; Nummela, A.; Rusko, H., Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. Journal of Applied Physiology 1999, 86, 1527-1533.

Seems plausible right? I know many of you feel like you don’t have time to resistance train, but that’s exactly where the problem with runners subsides. YOU MUST MAKE TIME. Why put yourself at risk for an injury? Why NOT get stronger, faster, leaner, and improve your efficiency while you’re at it? It’s easy to pass up resistance training since it’s not as easy as slipping on shoes and running out the door (literally).  However, it CAN be that easy! Either by coming to see me and asking me what to do because I would gladly set you with a program to do at home for you busy parents! My main point for this is time MUST be made for resistance training if you want to perform at your maximum potential as a runner!
So, a few main issues I see with runners?
  1. Insufficient depth
  2. Rounded back
  3. Valgus (inward) knee

And How About Some Nice Examples Of Some Ways I would Begin About Correcting Them.


• Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest lengthwise with your elbows pointing downward
• Sit in between your feet while keeping your chest up/out
• Squat ass-to-grass with your hip-crease below your knee-crease
• Finish with your elbows on the inside of your thighs
• Allow your torso to lean forward slightly to maintain balance over your mid-foot
• Do not allow your back to round forward – stay tight and strong in your core throughout the exercise

Over several weeks, progress to the heaviest dumbbell you can find. Not only is this challenging for the legs, but the core and spinal erectors get a great workout too. I recommend all runners be able to perform perfect heavy Goblet Squats before attempting barbell front or high-bar back squats.


• Stand with your feet 8-10” apart
• Place one hand on your low back and one on your stomach
• Slightly bend your knees
• Push your hips back, back, back while you bow forward – you should feel tension in your hamstrings as you reach 90 degrees at your hips
• Use your hands to feel if your back starts to round
• Stay long and tight in your core and keep your chest out

Learn and own this movement. Apply it to your training – a great exercise for runners is the Romanian Deadlift. Hold a loaded barbell with a double overhand grip in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep the bar close to your legs and perform the hip hinge as described above. Once the bar passes your knees, return to the standing position. To build strength, perform sets of 5 or less with at least 2-minutes rest between sets.

And finally, here is a nice video of a good WARM-UP exercise for runners!

Another great warm-up drill for runners involves activating the deep hip flexors. Lie on your back with a mini-band wrapped around your feet. Bring your knees to your chest. Keep one knee held tight with your stomach while pressing the opposite leg away. Hold the end position for 5-seconds. Perform 8- to 10-reps per side.

Don’t forget to be smart when choosing your exercises! If you already have pain in certain areas, don’t jump into exercises that target that spot! You must CORRECT before you can build STRENGTH.

Tip Of The Day:
“Many of you are hedging your bets, waiting for something good to happen BEFORE you express appreciation. This is the wrong way to go about it. Go out looking for things to appreciate – starting with the way things are, whether that reality is convenient for you or not – and riches will begin to flow toward you in ever-widening circles.” – Dr. Gay Hendricks

Mike Over
CPT / Strength & Conditioning Specialist

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