Every Runner Should Be Squatting
Running is hands down one of the best (if not THE best) ways to build aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health. However, a lot of runners get stuck training only running, when they could in fact diversify their training protocols to not only keep them healthier but also improve their running performance. In our opinion, one of the single most neglected movements that could be helping runners is the squat. We see it all the time – athletes with a running background come into our gym and have extremely deficient mobility and stability, sometimes accompanied by injuries to the lower body. These athletes see improvements very quickly when we teach them how to squat properly, and work on their range of motion in the squat. (Here are some other immediate fixes that will help improve running performance.)
Sprinters need to have EXTREMELY powerful legs. I would argue that in the running world, sprinters are the most in-tune with the benefits of the squat, because squats can be used to develop explosive, fast twitch muscle fibers that are essential for a sprinter. Squats train the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, which are all extremely vital for a max effort sprint. The more powerful these muscle groups are, the more explosively the sprinter can propel their body forward. Our recommendation for sprinters? Low rep work at heavy weight to develop overall strength, jump squats at light weights to develop explosiveness, and high rep burnout sets with medium weight to train the lactate threshold.
Distance runners put in a lot of miles which does a lot of wear and tear on their muscles, ligaments, and joints. They need to be able to stay healthy day after day, mile after mile, for long races and even longer, grueling training sessions. Knee injuries are extremely prevalent in distance runners, and it is typically due to an imbalance in the leg muscles from the repetitive motion which pulls on the ligaments of the knee and destabilizes it. The first benefit of squatting is that it will strengthen the muscles around the knee, decreasing the muscular imbalance and therefore making the joint more stable so that it can endure longer training sessions and extend the longevity of the distance runner.
One of the common faults in distance runners that results in decreased performance is when the runner is unable to keep an upright posture in long races. Runners will often start to hunch forwards which significantly decreases their efficiency and slows their cadence down. Two of the main reasons why this happens to distance runners is because they have weak quads or a weak core (or both). Guess what? Squats will strengthen the quadriceps and the core, helping the distance runner to stay stronger and more upright throughout their race, running efficiently with correct form. Our prescription for distance runners is to keep the weight light to moderate, keeping the rep scheme medium to high and always working on mobility before and after the squat session.
If you aren’t a competitive sprinter or distance runner, but instead are just someone who likes to run to stay in shape, that’s awesome and we want you to keep that up! We recommend adding in squats a couple times a week in order to train the core and leg muscles that may get a little neglected by running. Repetitive motion sometimes breeds injuries, so squatting to strengthen the entire body will hep create resilient joints. If you want workouts you can do at home with no equipment, you can start with these!
Need help learning how to squat properly? Find a trainer who has an impressive resumé and have them walk you through the entire process. If you’re in the Milwaukee area and want one of our trainers to help you, book a session free session here.