3 Ways That Squatting Can Help You Run Better
One of the most common misconceptions I have heard about weight training is that squatting can damage your knees.
This information is completely erroneous – a myth perpetuated by a few shambolic, low-quality case studies run in the 1960s, or, more often than not, by those who squat incorrectly themselves.
More recently, numerous studies have refuted this dogma and found that while they do increase pressure on your connective tissues, below parallel squats can have a significant effect on improving knee stability, in addition to boosting power and strength in the legs, preventing injury, and improving overall body positioning.
As such, squats are an excellent exercise to improve performance in runners, as well as wide variety of other sporting disciplines.
I’ll be addressing three of the primary benefits that squatting – both barbell and bodyweight – can have on your running performance.
1) Improve Body Posture
Squatting correctly helps you maintain a good lumbar curve in the lower back by strengthening the glutes, hams and back extensors, as well as engaging the core.
Being able to maintain this solid curve in the lower back for long periods of time is important when running, and it is a position you will see maintained by elite runners all the way through their races.
This is because having a good posture will reduce the risk of injury while running, such as through improper knee loading, in addition to preventing energy wastage through unnecessary sideways movement.
So, when you are squatting – with or without the bar – ensure that you are maintaining this natural curve in the lumbar region.
Be careful not to round the back forwards during the upwards phase of the lift, as this will put a lot of pressure on the lower back and not your legs, which might result in injury.
Plumping your chest out while squatting (like a pigeon) is an important technique that will help you achieve this arch.
2) Increase Power & Strength
While running is great for building endurance in your legs, it is not so great at improving leg strength.
Having strong legs is important for running because it will help you lengthen and add more bounce and ‘pop’ to you stride as well as build speed and explosive power which will come in handy whether you’re running on flats or hills.
In addition, stronger legs will improve performance when running cross-country or on uneven terrain, and they will also improve the way your body consumes oxygen, which can go some way to reducing fatigue.
This is, of course, where squatting comes in useful, as this mighty exercise – the ‘Lift of the Gods’ – is second to none when it comes to strengthening your leg muscles, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, thus allowing you to apply more force into the ground with every step.
3) Improve Knee Stability
As discussed earlier, ignore anyone that tells you that squatting is bad for your knees, as the complete opposite is true, and has been proven so time and time again.
Building strength in your knee is important as the majority of runners typically encounter knee ligament injuries – such as the infamous Runner’s Knee or Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) – at one point or another in their running career, which can be debilitating.
Improving strength in the muscles which surround your knee ligaments (lateral collateral ligament, anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, posterior cruciate ligament) will help keep your ligaments happy and healthy and prevent injuries arising from weak ligaments.
So, there we have it, three reasons why you should consider occasionally venture inside a gymnasium- not the typical runners favorite environment, but offers helpful means of incorporating squats into your training regime.
Ultimately, by improving your overall strength and athletic ability, squatting will do wonders for your running performance, whether you’re a sprinter, middle distance or long distance runner. It’s also helpful for your health and wellbeing.
So ignore the misconceptions, stop shying away from the squat rack- it won’t bite. Prepare to embrace the iron – you can thank me next time you smash your PR!
If you have any thoughts or questions about the topics I have covered in this article, I’d love to hear from you – just leave me a message in the comments section below!
Good luck – and happy squatting!