Over the past three months during my schooling at NPTI, I've learned a great deal about the difference between strength and functional strength. Functional strength is the strength you use in your everyday life or in the sports or physical activity you participate in on a daily basis. Many people (myself included), find themselves at the gym not knowing quite what to do, so they do like I did and read the illustrations on the machines, sit down and start working out—one muscle at a time. Working joints/muscles in isolation will help you look fitter, but in the long run it doesn't help you become stronger in the ways that you use those joints/muscles in your daily activities. Functional training focuses on working groups of joints/muscles replicating natural movements as well as movements used in your various sports and recreational activities.
Recently I was asked to be a member of the guest panel in a podcast hosted by The Runners Roundtable. The topic was resistance training for runners and the featured expert was Amelia Burton, a health and fitness coach from Sydney, Australia. Amelia shared a wealth of ideas for how to use resistance training in a more functional manner to benefit a runner's performance as well as to prevent injury. Through this podcast, which included panel members from the US, England, and Australia, I learned even more about the importance of functional resistance training for runners.
Below is a recent post from Amelia's website AmeliaBurton.com that provides excellent information on resistance training for runners. Check it out and then head over to Amelia's website and check out even more of the great ideas and information she provides.
What’s your training program like? Do you focus on increasing your miles each week, maybe a bit of speed work here and there, and of course a token stretch at the end of each session? Well hats off to you because unlike 85% of the population at least you are doing something! But whether you are an amateur runner or a competitive athlete, adding a resistance session each week might just be the thing you need to take your further, faster and with fewer injuries. This article looks at the reasoning behind resistance training for runners and identifies the top resistance training exercises all runners should do.
What is Resistance training for distance running?
Conventionally we think of resistance training as weights machines, dumbbells, slow movements and heavy weights (with lots of grunting). Resistance training for runners is quite different. It’s about loading the muscles in a manner that replicates running to improve their strength power, endurance and most importantly coordination. It’s about identifying the weaker muscles in the body and developing them to prevent injury. It is NOT about building unnecessary bulk or damaging already fatigued tissue and I must stress that incorrect resistance training can tighten you up and slow you down.
What purpose does it serve?
There are four key areas that resistance training will help you with: Speed, muscular endurance, efficiency of running technique, and injury prevention.
• Increase strength of your prime movers for speed and distance: The stronger your quads, glutes and hamstrings are the faster your will go and the longer you will be able to maintain your pace. Obviously nothing beats running to strengthen these, but resistance work involving sprints, uphill and downhill running improve their strength much faster.
• Prevents injury by Increase strength of your stabilisers: Your prime movers can only work as hard as your stabilisers will allow. It doesn’t matter how strong/fit you are, if you have poor hip knee and ankle stability, you will never reach your full potential in both speed and endurance.
• Increase coordination: Similar to stability, the faster you fatigue the sooner your coordination goes. Look at a distance athlete and how smooth their running style is. That is good coordination. All muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint actions are working in smooth unison to create effortless strides. The more fatigued you get the worse these actions interrelate create a less economical stride which slows you down and increases your chance of injury.
• Increase stride length: As you fatigue, your stride naturally shortens, your muscles tighten and you slow down. By increasing your stride length (within reason) you can maintain a faster pace and waste less energy through excessive foot strikes.
Two Training Programs for Runners
Click here for a printable program you can take to the park/oval for your resistance session. Ideally you will need a stop watch and a skipping rope, but exercises can be performed without them.
Click here for a printable program for Core Stability and VMO/Glute Activation. You will need a swiss ball and leg extension machine for these.