Strength training for marathon runners

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Strength training for marathon runners

“My client is training for the London Marathon in April, should I be replicating more running specific movements, or simply any form of lower body conditioning?”


This was a very good question I once received from a personal trainer and the answer to this not only addresses the client’s performance but does a lot to lower the risk of certain overuse injuries.


Assuming your client is a typical recreational runner who hits the road 4-6 times a week covering anything from 15-30 miles a week (and I am making an assumption here), then you can safely say the element of specialized physical preparedness (SSP) has already been covered by that part of their training routine. Extremely high-volume repetition of any one specific movement will never achieve a complete and balanced body and will inevitably lead to injury!


What needs to be appreciated here is that supplementary gym training, which is essential, should be aimed at targeting other body parts that are still left in need of further development. In the case of marathon runners, we only have to look to the most common repetitive strain injuries to see what is often overworked.


Distance running alone provides more than enough stimulus and conditioning to the quads and calves, while doing very little if anything to develop the glutes and hamstring. The tibialis anterior is a smaller but commonly overlooked lower limb muscle which also lacks sufficient stimulus and conditioning in runners.


Your client’s gym training should be structured around building strength in the glutes and hamstrings, while keeping quad and calve work to a minimum. The goal is to minimize imbalances developed through distance running. Don’t be scared of utilizing heavy and explosive training too, as long as they are using good form, you do not need to condition their lower body you simply need to balance it out. Any combination of the following can be used but whatever you use the goal is build strength on the posterior chain muscles:


Wide stance box squats
Sumo dead lifts
Bulgarian split squats
Good mornings
Glute bridges/hip thrusters



The most sports specific variation of the running movement that can be extremely beneficial would be to get your client doing short distance sprints to engage more gluts and hamstring. There are so many variables to consider from individual to individual, but the overall principles of physical balance are fairly universal. If there are any questions on the matter, please feel free to get in touch.



Hassan Z.


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