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 received today from a personal trainer, and the answer to this not only adresses the clients performance but does a lot to lower the risk of certain overuse injuries.

Louise maratahon

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 specialised 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 inevitable 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 comonly overlooked lower limb muscle which also lacks sufficient stimulus and conditioning in runners.

Your clients gym training should be structured around building strength in the glutes and hammstrings, while keeping quad and calve work to a mininmum. The goal is to minimise imbalances developed through distance running. Don’t be scared of getting the client to work heavy and explosively, 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:

  • Wide stance box squats
  • Sumo deadlifts
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Good mornings
  • Glute bridges/hip thrusters

The most sports specific movement would be to get your client doing short distance sprints to engage more glute and hamstring. This topic is vast and this article only scratches the surface as there are so monay variables to consider from individual to individual. If there are any questions on the matter please feel free to ask.

by Dr Hassan Zaid (DC MChiro CCEP) / Notting Hill Chiropractic

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