To Run Faster: Strength Training Is Key
Updated: Aug 24
By Brandon Groth and Eric Owens,
At some point, more running will not actually make a runner better. The difference in performance will depend on strength training.
Why Strength Train as a Runner?
Strength training is critical for runners because it improves key performance markers such as Vo2max, lactate threshold and running economy. It also improves performance by increasing muscle and connective tissue strength.
Vo2max is the maximum amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise. The greater the vo2max, the better the body utilizes oxygen and turns it into energy.
Lactate threshold is the intensity of exercise at which the body's lactate levels begin to accumulate quicker than they can be removed. Lactate is a byproduct of glucose utilization and supplies energy to muscle cells. If the body’s ability to remove lactate is lower than its accumulation, muscles will become acidic and have impaired performance.
Running economy is the amount of energy required at a given running speed. It indicates the runner’s efficiency. Strength training elevates running economy by increasing strength, muscle coordination, and activation. This means it takes less energy to run at the same speed, so a runner will be able to run faster and longer than before.
What Kind of Strength Training is Best?
A strength workout should be just that - a strength workout. It’s important not to turn the workout into a cardio session by doing a ton of sets and reps with light weights. The idea is to focus on lower volume and heavier weights. Runners get enough cardio, volume, and endurance work during their runs, so doing a strength training session using less volume means less overall wear and tear on the body.
What We Focus on at Delos Strength
Runners who train at Delos Strength are put through a program in which a rep is done with proper control and tempo. Everyone always focuses on lifting the weight (concentric phase), but that is only one half of the rep. There must also be emphasis on the lowering portion (eccentric phase) of the lift. Many times, people tend to just let the weight drop down with very little control, which means that they are missing out on half of the benefits of the lift. While running, the muscles go through both of those phases, so it only makes sense athletes should work on both during their strength workout. There are different adaptations happening in the muscles during each phase.
In order to maximize each rep, the goal is to take 2-3 seconds to lower the weight (eccentric phase) and lift the weight (concentric phase) as quickly as possible under control. This facilitates many desired connective tissue and collagen adaptations. Research has shown that collagen density increases 3-fold with eccentric strength training and interconnectedness of collagen within the muscle increases 10-fold.
The majority of the exercises should focus on compound movements involving multiple joints and muscle groups. Since running is a single leg exercise (only one leg is in contact with the ground at a time), a strength workout must include single leg exercises.
Life is hectic and there is an opportunity cost for everything. At Delos Strength, our clients do a one-on-one, full body strength training regimen with an expert strength coach. They train to near failure for 30 minutes, using equipment that’s not typically found in commercial gyms and focusing on compound eccentric movements, which are by far the most efficient way to train for performance and longevity.
Eric Owens is the co-founder of Delos Strength and a Hall of Fame table tennis athlete with numerous US and Pan-American Titles. He has a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry.
Brandon Groth is the managing partner of Delos Strength, a former NCAA coach and has a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology
For more information and a free session for CARA runners, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org