scorecardDon't skip strength training if you want to get better at running, according to a fitness coach
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Don't skip strength training if you want to get better at running, according to a fitness coach

Gabby Landsverk   

Don't skip strength training if you want to get better at running, according to a fitness coach
LifeScience3 min read
  • It's a myth that runners should avoid strength training, performance coach Chris Travis told Insider.
  • Building stronger lower body and core muscles can improve speed, efficiency, and endurance.

Skipping the weight room may be a bad idea, even if you prefer cardio, according to a fitness coach.

Many runners mistakenly avoid strength training because of misconceptions that it distracts from or even hinders their performance, says Chris Travis, owner and coach at Seattle Strength and Performance.

"They've been told that strength training is bad for running, and it's really the exact opposite," he told Insider. "Runners start to train with us and realize when they run less and add strength training, they're so much stronger, feel better in their run, and can go faster."

Incorporating strength workouts, especially for your legs and core muscles, can make you a better runner by improving your speed, endurance, and efficiency, Travis said.

Exercises like hip thrusts and leg curls target the glutes to boost speed and balance

Travis said that while some people are intimidated by strength training, the core philosophy of his gym is to make the benefits accessible to everyone, from total beginners to athletes in other sports.

"People who have never strength trained before have no idea what to expect. A lot of times they don't understand the benefits of strength training and how it can impact their lives," he said.

For runners, strength training helps cultivate more power, balance, and stability in the lower body, which translates to better speed, more resilience, and lower risk of injury.

Travis recommends athletes work on the posterior chain, the muscles on the back of the legs including the glutes and hamstrings, since they often get less attention than the quads on the front of the legs.

"People want to go very quad dominant in their training but actually when you're running, the glute is the biggest muscle in the lower body and is going to help you so much in your running efficiency," he said.

To target your posterior chain, work on exercises like hip thrusts or glute bridges (with one or both legs), and stability ball leg curls, Travis said.

Core exercises like the Pallof press and farmer carry can improve stability to make running more efficient

You may not think of running as a core exercise, but stabilizing through your abs is an important part of being able to generate power for better performance, Travis said.

"Your core helps connect the top and bottom half of your body as you're running. The more we can strengthen those areas, that's only going to increase your endurance and your ability to run faster," he said.

Start by working on excellent form in basic exercises such as dead bugs or a plank hold, then practice a side plank hold, Travis said.

As you get more advanced, Travis recommendations core exercises that train your body to resist rotation, such as the Pallof press or weighted plank drags.

But your core isn't just abs — healthy hip muscles are a key component that helps prevent injury and provide stability during a run.

Exercises like the Copenhagen plank can help you build strength in your hips as well as your abdominal muscles, Travis said.

To light up your whole core, including glutes, hips, abs, and back muscles, grab some weights and try a farmer carry, walking with with a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.

Another variation, the suitcase carry, involves a weight on just one side, forcing your core to work even harder to balance.

Research suggests core exercise improves performance by making runners more efficient, and having stronger hips may help reduce pain and injuries in other joints, such as the knees.