Take Home Point About Running and Strength

  1. Recreational running doesn’t improve muscle or cortical strength.

Running is the most common form of exercise for adults. This traditional form of training is excellent for increasing oxidative or aerobic capacity. However, many adults solely run, just like many only swim or bike. Unfortunately, these forms of training are unlikely to increase strength. At our boot camps in Santa Clara, we often provide running programs, allowing many to complete 5ks or 1/2 marathons, but this is not the only form of training, even during heavy running periods.

A recent study looked at split sixteen young males (23.6 years) into two groups:
  1. Running training 
  2. Control
After 8 weeks of training, the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the quadriceps was measured via electromyography (EMG). This group also looked at the activity in the brain via transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

This study had some interesting findings:
  1. Although endurance running performance improved in the running group MVC of the quadriceps did not improve.
  2. TMS also did not improve.

These results provide little information on what improves during a running program, but questions some beliefs with running programs.


If you are seeking improvements in running speed, realize you are not likely building strength! If you are seeking strength, an individualized strength and conditioning program will complement your running, while impairing it with excessive soreness.

Reference:
  1. Zghal F, Martin V, Thorkani A, Arnal PJ, Tabka Z, Cottin F. Effects of endurance training on the maximal voluntary activation level of the knee extensor muscles. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Dec 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Dr. John, DPT, CSCS