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by Ingrid Rodgers, athletic trainer at Saw Mill Club East
Strength training will make you faster. Whether you run short distance or longer distance you will find your pace increasing when you start strength train. Your leg strength will improve as will your body's efficiency to use energy and oxygen. Increasing the body's ability to use oxygen efficiently is the primary goal of endurance training. If you decrease the amount of oxygen needed to run at a certain speed, you will be able to sustain a faster pace for a longer time and run faster overall.
You will also increase your proportion of type IIA muscle fibers that fatigue slowly. Type II fibers are the fast twitch fibers and sprinters have a large concentration of them because their training triggers the development of these fibers. Researchers found that the athletes who strength trained increased the proportion of type II A muscle fibers in the quadriceps from 26 to 35 percent.
Strength training will help you prevent injury. Muscle imbalances within each limb can cause problems for runners. Including both unilateral and bilateral leg exercises to avoid imbalances and prevent injury and single side training has also been shown to improve sprinters speed. Forward lunges and step ups are excellent lower body exercises that will help equalize strength and power between the legs and are excellent for runners.
Strength training with traditional lifts such as squats,dead lifts,lunges, and chin ups will increase your core strength. Better core strength will help you avoid back pain and make you faster. Once you've got the basics down, you will get the most out of your strength workout by lifting heavy, above 80 percent of the maximal amount you can lift. Strength training will challenge your weaknesses and make you faster and stronger.