Video Q&A: Will Core and Strength Exercises Make Me Faster?

by Jason Fitzgerald

If you asked me ten years ago about strength exercises, I would have smirked and said they’re unnecessary for runners. Also, I was an idiot ten years ago.

I had a conversation with my friend Jeremy in 2003 where he said, “You should get into the gym and do some leg exercises. I bet it would really help your running.”

My response? “Dude, I don’t need to do any leg exercises. I get plenty of leg exercises while running, dude.”

Besides my liberal use of the word “dude,” (which I remember very clearly) can you see how dumb I was being? I had no idea what I was talking about.

Indeed, strength work is critical to breaking the injury cycle that cursed me from 2002 -2008. I’ve since transformed my training and haven’t had a major overuse injury in four years.

See, there are essentially only two ways to reduce your risk of injury: run less or get stronger. Pete Larson, author of Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury Free Running was recently quoted as saying:

[Injury prevention] comes down to either reducing the force [of running] or strengthening the body. You can pick your favorite way of dealing with that.

So, will it be reducing the force of running (by running less) or strengthening the body?

Since I love running – and I bet you do too – let’s focus on strengthening the body.

That brings me to a question that Damon emailed me on why runners should do particular strength routines. He asks:

Will doing the Pedestal, Myrtl, and Back routines help me become a faster distance runner?

Spoiler alert: the answer is no. But, that doesn’t mean you should skip these routines (or other core routines). If you’re not sure why strength work is so beneficial, watch this short new Q&A video:

I’ve mentioned before that the secret sauce to successful running is consistency. It’s what enables you to train for months and months – and see dramatic improvement in your results.

Consistency also happens to be the #1 struggle that SR readers complain about. That’s why I built an entire course on making running a consistent habit that sticks, called the Strength Running Boot Camp.

Part of the problem with inconsistency is motivation and discipline. But for many runners, regular injuries plague their lives.

As soon as one little injury is healed, another pops up. If that sounds familiar, removing yourself from this cycle should be your #1 goal. It’s so important I spend an entire week on injury prevention in the Boot Camp.

You don’t need to be an expert on strength workouts to get started either (it’s more important to do something than nothing at all), so get started today.

In a few months, you may just realize you’re running more than ever.

Core and Strength Exercises Resources:

Join 10,000+ Runners and Get Faster!

Get the Strength Running PR Guide ebook and tips to run faster (without the injuries).

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{ 8 comments }

Stacey

Ok – so say for example someone has weak glutes. Their hamstrings are overcompensating and are very tight. Obviously this can lead to overuse, and a strain can occur, and running takes a back seat for awhile. But in strengthening the glutes, I know it might prevent a hamstring strain, ect. Would the added strength in the core area in affect make one faster?

Heather

In my experience, strengthening my glutes has enabled me to run more miles, to run more days per week, to run consistently week after week, and to do more speedwork. Before I started doing core and strength exercises I experienced a lot of hip pain that limited how much I could run. Since I started regularly doing strength exercises I’ve been running a lot more, haven’t had to lay off running due to injury or pain, and I’ve definitely gotten faster. So I can’t the strength exercises directly made me faster, but they made me a stronger runner who can train harder, which made me faster.

Stacey

So it boils down to running – consistently, over a period of time, to get faster. And you can’t do that if you’re injured often.

Julie

Totally a believer in core strength and conditioning, however I will disagree with you somewhat. Some injuries are caused by poor form. You can only correct poor form to a certain degree with strength and condition. Classic example is my former low cadence, over striding leading to a cycle of knee injuries. No amount of strength and condition was going to get me through that – in fact I was doing tons of leg work in the gym. It wasn’t until I corrected the poor form and got my foot strike closer to my center of gravity did the knee issues resolve. Do I still do core and strength? Yes! But there are other causes of injury than poor strength or overuse.

Stephen

Hi Julie,

You state, “No amount of strength and condition was going to get me through that – in fact I was doing tons of leg work in the gym.” The greatest issue with ‘gym’ exercises is they create negative motor patterns which contradict anatomically correct bio-motor patterns, incorrect joint angles and do not follow the natural strength curve. All shiney chrome machines should never be used by athletes. They’re in the gym to dazzel and sell memberships. Leg press machines and squat machines are just as ineffective as all leg curl and leg extension machines. In nearly all commercial gyms even the barbell squat is improperly instructed. All these work against you rather than ehance and support your running skills. I’ve been coaching and training runners, professionally, since 1979 and have worked with every type of runner from novice to Olympic qualifiers. I ran track in my school days thru college and still compete in Masters & Senior divisions and will always love the sport. I have seen a lot over the decades and I am always concerned for athletes’ well being and to maintain longevity in the sport.

Mandy

what are good glute strengthening exercises?

Jason Fitzgerald

See the ITB Rehab Routine for a few great ones.

Nell Gyenes

Jason,
So many great points in your post. Before I started with strength exercises, I noticed my left side, non-dominant, leg, hip, pelvic area would start to ache at about 8 -10 miles into a run. This would then lead to overall sluggish running form, muscle tension and lots of recovery effort (mental and physical) for the rest of my miles. Since I was in training for a full marathon, cutting down on mileage wasn’t in the plan, so I turned to strength training 2-3x per week to help me out…and it worked, made a difference within just a few weeks. Just as you mentioned about running – consistency is key. Because I applied that consistency to both my running and strength exercises, like Heather notes above, I became stronger and faster.

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