It is not always about running strong, but when 2-3 times your body weight goes through your lower limb every step, a 70kg runner like me will accumulate 1.9million kgs of load every hour of running. So, strength should be factored in.
Your ‘Running Strong’ home assessment
This is a practical test you can try out yourself to give you a max score of 100 points per leg. This will be useful to see how close you get to 100 and identify any discrepancies from right to left. I have provided 4 exercises with instructions to ensure a proper technique is kept. Remember if you cheat with poor repetitions, you are only cheating yourself. Try and achieve 25 repetitions of each exercise, for each leg to reach a max score of 100:
Single leg calf raises:
Stand one foot away from the wall, light fingers on the wall for balance and stand on one leg. Then, rise as high onto your toes as you can and lower yourself until your heel lightly touches the floor. Repeat one calf raise every 2 seconds maintaining the same height and keeping you knee straight throughout the test.
Step Bridges on one leg:
Lay on your back with one leg on a box and your knee bent at 90 degrees. Then cross your arms over your chest and raise your hip up towards the ceiling until your shoulders, hip and knee make a straight line.
Side leg raises:
Lie on you side with your bottom leg bent for balance and your top leg straight. Then with your top shoulder, hip, knee and foot making a completely straight line raise you foot towards the ceiling and back to parallel with the floor. Keep the leg engaged throughout, no resting in between reps.
Single leg sit-to-stand:
Find a chair you can sit on with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Then hold one leg up in the air, cross your arms or have them straight out in front of you and try to rise from the chair on one leg.
Gym Strength assessment
While the exercises above are great for testing you muscle endurance, there are a few more components to address. This includes absolute strength however, requires correct guidance and experience with heavy weights. For example, weighted squats, lunges, deadlifts, knee extension and single leg presses. While the science isn’t clear on the targets you should be hitting for a runner, some researchers have suggested 1-1.5x body weight for 3 sets of 10 repetitions for most of these exercises is a good zone.
Lastly, we have power, which is the need for your muscles to generate force quickly. This is important because running is an endurance & power-based activity, and I often see runners who display endurance and strength without power. For example, hopping on one leg and measuring your vertical & horizonal hop, box jumps and skipping. These are all examples of exercises you can test and compare your right side to left side.
Relevant Blog posts
- Common Strength training myths for runners
- How to strengthen your calves for running?
- Do I need strong feet for running?
- Strength exercises for a runner at home
Relevant Podcast episodes
- Strength training 1: injury risk & injury prevention
- Strength training 4: Exercises & program planning Richard Blagrove