Scale Down the Strength Training for Forefoot Running

A great way to supplement your forefoot running training is by pumping iron. I strongly believe that strength training is an absolute must for running because in my opinion, a strong muscle is one that is less likely to become injured. Strong leg and foot muscles also help control abnormal joint rotation and foot pronation. However, there’s a certain time when strength training is appropriate because training at the wrong time can sabotage your running performance.

How Much Strength Training is Good for Running

For example, excessive strength training right before running hinders performance by increasing oxygen depletion in the muscles resulting in neuromuscular fatigue, according to a study by Taipale et al. 2012.

Excessive Strength Training Impairs Running Form

Research has found that too much heavy strength training prior to running increases muscular fatigue, which is not good for the neuromuscular system because it starts misbehaving under fatigued conditions. So, save your energy for running and reserve strength training for your non-running day, or perhaps, lift weights after you’ve run –which may benefit you because it forces you to train harder in a fatigued state, thereby mimicking the conditions of the marathon.

Excessive strength training before running quickly removes oxygen from the muscles, creating an energy deficit thereby promoting premature fatigue. When the muscles are fatigued during running, movement coordination and precision is compromised.

  • Strength training increases oxygen extraction from the blood which decreases blood-oxygen saturation.
  • Heavy bearing activities, such as weight lifting, before running induces muscle contractions increasing oxygen extraction leading to premature muscular fatigue when running. This is fine if you’re a bodybuilder, not if you’re a runner.

Too much strength training impairs running economyOne study reported that muscle fatigue due to oxygen depletion led to neuromuscular fatigue and inefficient motor unit recruitment patterns in runners.

  • Neuromuscular fatigue alters running form and kinematics, increasing the risk of running injury.

Moderate Levels of Strength Training

Though high volume, long duration, and hard intensity modes of strength training sabotages running economy, running economy can be improved with the right balance of strength training volume and intensity.

Taipale et al. found that low volume, mixed maximal, and explosive strength training before running increased dynamic strength and maximal running speed without compromising running economy.

  • The training protocol included 20 to 30 minutes of low-intensity endurance training followed by warm-up sets using lower resistance followed by squats and leg press exercises with 2 to 3 minutes rest between each set. This protocol was performed twice a week.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that runners in the circuit training protocol did not show improvements in neuromuscular performance and running economy. The circuit training used body weight as loads whereby squats, push-ups, lunges, sit-ups, toe raises, back-planks, and step-ups were performed.

  • Low-intensity strength training, performed once or twice a week, before running does not deprive the muscles of oxygen and therefore should not hinder running performance.

The Take Home Message

Ever notice how slender the top distance runners are? Most of these runners are from Kenya and Ethiopia and genetically have a smaller frame, but does not mean they can’t buff up. However, they don’t suggesting that muscular strength is not a major factor for performance in distance running.

Forefoot runners don't need excessive strength training
Long Distance Runners Don’t Need to be Overly Muscular – East African runners spend less time in the gym and more time running.

Light strength training has more benefits to injury prevention, just don’t overdo it at the gym. Spend less time pumping iron and more time out on the roads running hard.

More From Run Forefoot


Taipale et al. Neuromuscular adaptations during combined strength and endurance training in endurance runners: maximal versus explosive strength training or a mix of both. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2013 ;113(2):325-35

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.