Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Ten Strength Training Rules for Distance Runners

Below is a brief entry we did for the most recent Southern Arizona Roadrunners Newsletter.  Since the newsletter is not available online, I'll post the article here as well.  Since a lot of endurance athletes have no idea what to do when it comes to strength development, hopefully these rules can get these athletes in the right direction. 


1.  Do no harm.  The goal of strength training is to support running, not replace it.  No matter how noble your intentions, strength training should never leave you too injured or fatigued to run effectively.

2.  Find an appropriate balance.  Think Goldilocks…not enough, too much, or just right?  Too much is like setting your house on fire when all you need is a little fire in the chimney.  Without heat you might freeze in the winter.  Just right gets the job done and keeps you safe.

3. Strength protects you from life.  Many running injuries result not from running itself, but instead from life outside running.  How is your “computer posture”?  Ever need to help someone move?  Ladies, does running alone prepare you for carrying your young child around?  Preserve your body for running by developing the strength to handle these life activities. 

4.  Individualize.  We generally don’t take other people’s medical prescriptions.  Strength training prescriptions are no different.  Use exercises specific to your own needs as identified by a competent fitness or medical professional.  

5.  Consistency.  Stay in touch with strength all year round, but change the complexion of your workouts to reflect the evolution of your goals specific to each part of the season.  Never completely abandon strength except during planned time off.

6. Act like a baby.  The running stride evolved from the primal movement patterns of kicking, reaching, rolling, and crawling.  Strength training must complement locomotor development as expressed through the running stride.      

7. Strength is a skill.  Exhausting metabolic conditioning circuits are rarely justifiable in terms of cost-benefit for running.  Treat strength training as a form of skill enhancement; not a random circuit of exercises to be survived.  We get enough survival training while pushing our limits on the roads, trails, and tracks!

8.  Honor the inherent capabilities of each joint system.  Big toes, ankles, hips, the thoracic spine, and shoulders are designed for mobility and should be trained as such.  Knees, the lumbar spine, shoulder blades, and the neck require stability training to support the mobile joints. 

9.  Technique, technique, technique.  Earn the right to lift more reps or heavier weight by demonstrating technical excellence with lower loads. 

10. Understand the difference between inhibited and weak.  A muscle can appear weak if something else prevents it from expressing its strength.  Remove restrictions first.  Forcing strength into an inhibited muscle is like driving with the emergency brake on…You waste energy, don’t go very fast and probably damage your vehicle.


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