If there’s one thing most runners can all agree on, it’s that strength training sucks! Unfortunately, the science isn’t with us on this one.
The 2017 study conducted by Quebecois and French researchers and published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance sought to explore the overall effects of strength training on middle- and long-distance performance. To do so, a meta-analysis was done on over 550 potential studies with strict inclusion criteria to screen only for those of the highest quality. In the end, the researchers included 28 studies and then compared the findings to find trends and similarities.
Results found that implementing a strength training program — specifically a dedicated mesocycle of it — was associated with moderate improvements to middle and long distance performance, namely through improvements in running economy. There were also increases to maximal force and power. Further subgroup analyses found that strength training provided meaningful benefits regardless of a runners’ ability.
Taken together, this study lends strong evidence to support the notion that runners looking to improve their performances should add strength training in addition to traditional sport-specific training.
Runners looking to add strength work to their training can take as little as 15-20 minutes, two or three times a week. There are no shortage of exercises and drills one can choose so finding something you actually like to do is key to maintaining the routine.