Some of the main things runners need to work on that many completely skip with their strength training are the following.
Max Strength Development
Strength is the base point of pretty every other physical quality. The nervous system must be trained to fire more motor units and muscle fibers and to do so more efficiently. The more force one puts into the ground, the faster he/she will be. This can help the optimization of stride length and stride frequency, which can knock a lot of time off of a race. To build max strength, big bang exercises such as back squats, front squats, deadlifts and many more must be performed for multiple sets of low reps (4-6 sets of 1-5 reps) with maximal weights.
Speed Strength Development
If you want to cut time off of your run, it should be common sense that you would want to be faster, right? Training the nervous system to fire motor units and muscle fibers faster will allow one to shave more time off and run a faster, more efficient race. This can be done with many different squatting, pushing and pulling variations with many sets of lower to moderate reps with lighter to moderate weights. For straight speed strength, 8-12 sets of 2-3 explosive reps works well. For speed strength endurance, 6-8 sets of 5-10 explosive reps works well. An exercise like the back squat would work well with this.
Addressing Muscular Imbalances
Everybody has some type of imbalance that could be worked on. Runners tend to have more than average. The repetitive motion that is performed for an unbelievable number of steps tends to create problems. One big issue that tends to be common is hip imbalances. From my experience, a weak glute medius muscle on either one or both sides of the body is quite common. When this muscle doesn’t fire or do its job, the knee will cave and the foot will crossover during foot strike. This can cause knee, hip and/or back pain over time and repetition. Single leg movements such as lunge variations and glute med specific movements such as clam shells and side leg raises can help with this. This is just one of many possible imbalances. If it is one side, things tend to be worse.
Performing Free Motion Functional Movements
Relying only on machines does nothing for performance. To train for performance, muscular coordination, balance, stabilization and movement patterns must all be addressed with exercise. This means that squatting, pulling, pushing, rotation and locomotive variations all better be addressed within a runner’s strength training program. (Unless you run while sitting down on a pad while the rest of your body is stabilized for you that is).
If you run and are missing out on any of these things, you better get to work!!!