Regular, even uncompromising, running sessions are definitely the best way to progress. But muscle-building and/or muscle strengthening exercises have an important role in an overall strategy for improving your running performance.
1. Become a More Energy-Efficient Runner Thanks to Strong Muscles
VO2max – the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can use during aerobic action - is a determining factor in a runner's performance.But energy-efficient motion is also a key element. Particularly for endurance running, such as marathons.
All the scientific studies carried out over the last decade have shown that a trained runner can reduce the energy used by following a muscle-building programme for several months. Explanation: stronger foot strike reduces ground contact time and oxygen consumption at a certain speed.
2. Heavy Weights aren't Necessary
Some are very tempted to use brief, intense movements.But if we believe results of certain studies, this is an error.It is more important to work with weights between 30% and 50% of the maximum possible in long series. Doing so teaches your muscles to tolerate and manage targeted fatigue they are not used to.
Runners – particularly women – shy away from muscle-building for fear of putting on weight. Good news: a workout with suitable exercises does not necessarily lead to muscle enlargement. The silhouette does not necessarily change, and there is not necessarily a major change on the scales.
Progress is generally significant (even spectacular), but it must be maintained throughout the preparation for an objective, such as a competition. Beware of cancelling a weekly muscle-building session at a key period prior to D-day. You risk losing all the results gained in previous workouts.
3. Which Exercises
As well as high-intensity circuits using body weight which combine cardiovascular effort and muscle-strengthening, it is also interesting to do targeted workouts using muscle-building machines.
Always warm up carefully (for example, 20 to 30 minutes of running on a treadmill or cycling on an exercise bike). And start with light weights to avoid muscle or tendon damage.
Inclined bench presses and half squats with a bar are effective in the development of lower-body muscles (particulary the quadriceps). Calf-extension on a block (with a machine-guided weight behind the shoulders) and hip flexion with a low pulley to work the calves and hips. Beware of pushing yourself too far. It's better to finish each session feeling like you could have done more.
Ask a qualified fitness instructor for advice before adding new muscle-building exercises to your regular training session. And use light weights to be sure to control each movement.