Strength Training for Distance Runners -The 3 Key Benefits

 In Running


Many distance runners and triathletes neglect to perform regular strength training exercises.

They instead focus on regular foam roller sessions, and a great deal of stretching/mobility related exercises.

While neither stretching, or foam roller exercises are ‘bad’ for a runner, what can be costly to a runner seeking maximal performance is a failure to regularly incorporate strength training into their training program.


There are three key benefits that I cite that strength training produces for runners.

In short strength training:

1. ‘Primes the pump’ of a runner’s body.

That is strength exercises prime what is scientifically referred to as  ‘neuro-muscular firing’ of the muscles of a runner’s legs and trunk. This prepatory facilitation of muscles ahead of a runner crashing to the ground (at 2-3 x body weight) is of critical importance for the health of a runner’s body. The runner’s nervous system in effect ‘pre-empts’ the landing, resulting in a beautifully orchestrated set of muscle reflexes that brake the runner’s fall to the ground. Without such orchestration of muscles contracting, stiffening, and relaxing their would be poorer energy absorption on landing, and likewise poorer propulsion onto the next step.

Runner over striding Brad Beer physio

Strength training assists runner’s to reduce excessive ground reaction forces on landing. A runner who over strides (such as this diagram will be subjected to greater ground reaction forces).


2. Decreases injury risk.

This reduction in injury risk is a result of the better ability of the muscles in the leg and body to absorb the potentially deleterious ground reaction forces that the runner encounters on landing.

3. Improves running economy.

Strength training results in better running ‘economy’. Economy refers simply to the ability for a runner to go further or faster (or both) for a given speed of running. The runner with better economy will always be faster at a given speed than the runner who has poorer economy.

In my Amazon Bestseller ‘You CAN Run Pain Free!’ book I cite that:

A runner’s aim should be to use or expend as little fuel as
possible at any given running speed.

As an example of running economy in 2007, elite distance runner Zersenay Tadese was reported to have what was at the time one of the best running economies ever measured( 2). Tadese used less oxygen at a given running speed than any runner who was tested before him. The researchers recorded the total volume of oxygen Tadese used to run one kilometre measured in ml/kg/km. Tadese used just 150ml/kg/km while running at 3:06/km pace!

While we may not be as economical as Tadese our aim should be to become as economical as possible to assist in maximising our running potential.


For more information on the benefits of strength training for runners the following related posts will be of interest.


If you found this post useful you will enjoy these running strength related posts useful as well:

1. Excellent Strength Training Exercise for Runners HERE.

2. 4 Must Do Running Strength Exercises HERE.

3. Why Every Runner Needs Hip Stability HERE.


Brad Beer (APAM)

Physio, Author, Founder POGO, Runner



POGO Physio Gold Coast Brad Beer running physio book

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  • Jane Barker

    Hi I was a long distance runner and regularly did strength training. 2 years ago I admit I went on a field run when fatigued and slipped. I have been doing rehab for proximal hamstring and gluteal tendonpathy with no improvements. I had hip arthroscopic surgery on Saturday and they found a labrel tear which was repaired and a rim recession . I’m on crutches for a couple of weeks then really I don’t know what I should be doing . My physio seems a bit vague on wether we will be continuing the tendon rehab. Would appreciate any advice or what to accept . Thanks

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