Relative Strength vs. Absolute Strength For Runners

What to know about strength training, and some examples of workouts you can try in the gym.

High-frequency running, circuit training, and yoga — you’ve tried it all.

You wonder where you should even start, overwhelmed and stressed by the endless clusters of information available to you.

Getting results isn’t easy. Aimless exercise programming leads to frustration, stress, and giving up altogether. Problem is, with pool sessions, cross-training workouts, and speed development sessions, it’s easy to forget a key component to athletic success — strength. The ability to tolerate foot contact impact, generate force, and apply it into the ground to propel the body forward is crucial to endurance and injury prevention. Put a premium on developing a base of strength development and you’ll see improvements in running and fitness across the board.

Let’s narrow the focus on strength to relative strength and absolute strength.

Relative strength is the amount of strength to body size, or how strong you are for your size. This reflects a person’s ability to control or move their body through space, a vital trait in athletics. All else being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength. This is why despite both athletes being in great condition, a 145-pound male with equal absolute strength to a 180-pound male will apply greater relative forces into the ground and run faster.

RELATED: Strength Training Circuit For Runners

Absolute strength is the maximum amount of force exerted, regardless of muscle or body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher bodyweight and in general, larger individuals. Greater absolute strength will improve relative strength capabilities.

Improving strength with multi-joint strength movements is a missing link in training for runners. Strength training will delay the onset of muscle fatigue, decrease the loss of energy during stride impact, and increase the ability to generate force for sprint speed. Two days per week and 45 minutes per workout, as described on the following page, will help you build a faster, stronger, more resilient body to improve your running performance.

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