Strength training has a very specific purpose – to increase your ability to produce force. Strength training for running goes one step further – to produce more force, more easily, whilst running. This can fool people into thinking strength training with only body weight as resistance is adequate, since you run with only body weight. This oversimplification is one of the most common reasons we see runners get injured or fail to get faster.
Strength has several components. We can define maximal strength as different to strength endurance as well as both being different to power. Each is developed separately as they are individual parts of the same system in effect.
Go back in time to Milo and the bull. For those who don’t know, Milo started off by picking up and carrying a young calf. He did so everyday until he was carrying a fully grown bull. Ok, we all smell BS!! Although not literal, the metaphor for overload and the increasing capacity for enduring more and more strenuous activities holds true for how humans change over time.
Milo got stronger because he adapted to the heavier and heavier weight of the growing calf. He did not carry a young calf of the same weight every day, then wake up in five years able to pick up a bull. We don’t adapt like that to training with our own body weight either.
So what do we need?
Increased range, increased complexity but most of all increased load. A small but consistent increment of extra stress (the weight) in order to adapt and get better at moving heavier loads. Not because we want to be heavier ourselves, we don’t, but because being stronger gives us more reserves, better efficiency, more resilience to injury, and more chance of running faster.
We can use bands, dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells. Weighted vests and bottles of water (or wine!) serve the same purpose. It doesn’t have to be a lot or even every day, but over time we must increase the demands on our muscles and central nervous system – the thing that controls our strength.
Body weight training is a great place to start and can take you pretty far. There are lots of options when it comes to strength training but one principle must be followed; progressive overload. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your effort and track your strength work using this principle.