Why Runners Are Moving From The Roads To The Racks

Why Runners Are Moving From The Roads To The Racks

We’re now in marathon season – if you have a place in London’s flagship event, then you will already know about it – and hopefully are at the beginning of your marathon mission.

Marathon training, however, has moved on somewhat from endlessly pounding pavements and hoping for the best – your running program should consist of a mixture of incremental distance work, interval training, as well as slower paced recovery runs.

But before all that, you need a solid foundation of strength. To discuss why traditional strength training is becoming the backbone of all marathon training programs. I often describe it as the cup that every other aspect of physical fitness sits within. Speed is determined by strength – it’s simply an expression of force, but applied quickly.

Flexibility and mobility are directly determined by stability (strength), the expression you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe is true when it comes to human movement. Proximal stability builds distal mobility – in other words the ability of the limbs to move in relation to the torso is determined by the stability (strength) of the torso.

Endurance training requires strength; a 10k run is essentially 1000s of repetitions of hopping from one foot to the other. This requires absorption of force (strength) and propulsion through the air (strength!).

I put all of my clients attempting an endurance test such as a marathon or longer distance triathlon onto a twice weekly full body gym program with the goals of both bullet proofing them against injury – but also giving them that extra gear when they need it.

When people realise that strength training can help their running , they often gravitate towards something obvious like squats. Squatting works the legs, and running requires legs, ipso facto—let’s do some squats! Now squats are great, but if you have muscular imbalances, lingering injuries (particularly knee pain) or you’re just fatigued from your training miles, then squatting can be an extra strain you don’t really need.

Luckily there’s something else you could be doing that’s actually more effective: deadlifting.

Here are Five Ways Runners Can Benefit From Deadlifting

1. The deadlift is closely related to running.

Besides making you stronger, the deadlift trains you to hinge forward at the hips and align your trunk with your knees and feet in the same way you will when running. Also, the strength you’ll gain in your glutes and hamstrings, which make up part of your posterior chain, will help you to apply more force as you rake your foot back to propel yourself forward after your foot strikes the ground.

2. Deadlifting can help you avoid knee pain.

This common runner’s affliction can crop up when your training volume goes up or you’re pushing hard on race day. If you’ve never experienced it then I’m willing to bet you know someone who has. Quite often, knee pain is the result of a weak posterior chain, or being ‘quad-dominant’. Basically, that means that your glutes in particular aren’t doing their job, which forces your quads to do overtime and can lead to painful patellar tracking issues.

Deadlifting done correctly should fire your hamstrings and glutes, forcing your quads to play more of a supporting role, which creates good muscular habits and can help prevent potential knee pain.

3. Deadlifting will help you hold onto solid running form longer.

Again, done correctly, deadlifts train scapular rotation, which will contribute to a nice upright, solid torso. Not only is an upright torso more efficient while running, but that scapular rotation will help keep your airways open. Form is one of the first things to go during a long race as the fatigue sets in and you slump forward, but deadlifting will help you avoid that and stay upright, which will give you more endurance. Another benefit of a strong upper body, particularly arms and shoulders, is that it’ll help you drive forward during those long days leaning on your hiking poles, or pushing off your legs as you haul arse up climb after climb.

4. Deadlifting is time-efficient.

You can get through an effective deadlift session in 30 minutes flat, and that includes spending ten minutes or so mobilising before you start. There are a number of rep schemes you can follow, but lifting for power and overall strength, not muscle gain, is the goal here. You want to be lifting in rep ranges that will overload the muscles and trigger the training response you want.

5. Deadlifting is actually fun!

I’m not advocating making a spectacle of yourself, training topless in the gym and screaming mid-lift to draw attention to your incredible feats of raw strength (seriously… I’m not). But it is gratifying to challenge your body in a new way, and there’s a quiet sense of achievement to be had when you find yourself warming up with weights that had felt beyond heavy weeks before.