Do squats improve your running speed

[00:00:00] If you’ve been on the channel before, you know that I have recommended that you do some kind of strength work. But the question may be what kind of strength in particular should I be doing? So today I want to talk about squats and the big question of do squats help improve your running?

[00:00:27] I’m Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. So if you want to know about running and squats, this is the place to be. Hit the subscribe button. Stick around for more episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

[00:00:42] Now, as I mentioned in the intro, we talk about strength training from time to time, and I mentioned how you should be doing it. But the big question is what should you be doing? And squats are definitely one of them. So caveat right off the back. Yes, squats are going to help you run faster. And that kind of comes from a couple of different angles.

[00:01:03] Number one, most importantly, if you’ve been here before. Again, I mentioned specificity. So running, if you want to be a better runner, you should run more. How do you run more? You stay healthy. So one way to stay healthy is by doing strength training and squats or in some ways a almost a facsimile, but like a very similar multi-joint movement as to running like the motion that we go through to squat, very similar to the push-off that happens when you run.

[00:01:41] Now, here is a big caveat to running versus squats, and that is range of motion. Some of us, if we do really fast speed work, we get a really nice big range of motion on our running. But if you’re just going to be out for long runs or even the majority of us, 80% of our runs are long runs, we don’t get the full range of motion you would as when you squat, what can happen through this lack of range of motion and repetition is injury.

[00:02:17] So one way to prevent that injury is using full range of motion and muscle, maintaining strength to the entire phase from squatting all the way down, all the way back up to full extension. That helps prevent injury as we continue running. And if I talk about anything here, it’s about consistency, how consistency over time improves running.

[00:02:40] So it’s a little bit of an ancillary, yes, in that we can prevent injury by doing strength work and squats, specifically help us address many of the muscles that we use when we run. And that consequently helps us be more consistent and gain speed. But let’s talk about specifically what’s happening with squats and how that affects our running. And before we get too far into the specifics, let’s say first, doing strength work is not necessarily going to make you big.

[00:03:16] There’s lots of worry and concern about gaining too much weight in running community. Number one, overblown, I think my career is a good example of that. I have continued to gain weight as I got into triathlon and got a little bit bigger upper body. But despite all that, still maintain fairly good running speeds. But there’s power to be gained when you gain weight any way through muscles.

[00:03:41] That being said, my original point being just doing squats doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to become big and bulky. There’s a particular kind of training that you can take on if you want to become big and bulky. But if you’re doing low weight, high rep kind of stuff, you’re probably going to increase your strength, but not necessarily going to get huge.

[00:04:02] And if you’re also doing like really low rep but high weight to increase, increase maximum power also probably not going to get really big. And the crux of the matter with running a particular and triathlon, if you want to get into that, is power weight ratio. So you want to maintain a lighter body typically because then the amount of power if you can increase it, you can make a lighter body go faster, but it is power weight ratio.

[00:04:33] So gaining some weight means you can increase your power tremendously. Then that extra weight you may be carrying may actually be worth the weight of carrying it around because it produces so much more power. But what we’re talking about with squats in particular of what’s happening is working on the overall stability of kind of our hip section, hips, glutes, those kind of things are stabilizers.

[00:05:02] Glutes are used for push-off and power, but also stabilization while running. And we start with just using regular squats, just bodyweight squats, nothing on not holding any dumbbells, no barbell nothing, just bodyweight squats and then can move on to more advanced things like single leg squats, which helps improve that entire chain.

[00:05:26] If you haven’t heard me talk about the chain before, it’s your body. And this idea that your body is a chain. And if you have a weak link in your chain, often that is referring to your abs and your core. But it can also be your glutes, your hip flexors, your stabilizers, big stabilizers there for your legs.

[00:05:46] If you have a weak link in your chain power distribution from the floor where your feet are touching and pushing off all the way to your head is hampered. So you need all of those links to be strong along your entire chain so that you transfer power from toe to head more effectively. The other point I want to talk about with squats and why they’re going to help make you faster has to do with a variation of squats.

[00:06:15] And that’s, as I mentioned, single leg squats. One of the things that we can get into trouble with is by favoring a particular side. So we know that often people are going to have a dominant side. For me and I’m right-handed, my right side is dominant. It doesn’t always happen that way, but we don’t typically want to see more than a 5% variation in power between your sides.

[00:06:42] So if for some reason one side is way stronger than the other, often that is either a result of compensating because of injury or can cause injury because of the difference in power. Single leg squats force us to isolate legs and to make them adapt nearly the same level.

[00:07:05] So if you’re doing bodyweight squats and you’re doing ten reps of each on each leg, I’m not just saying this is what you should go do. But if this is what you’re doing, then you know each leg is getting equal load, meaning adaptation and change through your body should be similar as well so that you have that power distribution that should be roughly equal between the legs.

[00:07:31] This disproportionate power distribution is seen often in track runners. It’s also why if you do track, you might visibly be able to see a difference in your legs. I know my right calf used to be much bigger than my left calf when I was running in school because we did a lot of track work and ran the track.

[00:07:53] But that’s something that you have to pay attention to if you’re not on the track and you don’t need the specificity of being able to go at high speeds and turning left, then you really don’t want any more than that 5% distribution change between the legs. And even if you are on the track, you probably don’t either. But you will probably see a little bit of difference because of the repetition over time.

[00:08:17] So should you do squats? I think a resounding yes helps prevent injuries, increases all of those. The strength of all those muscles in our chain stabilizers, push-off muscles, hamstrings, quads, all those things are very important for speed. And then again, if you do single leg, you’re hoping to prevent injury.

[00:08:40] Now, if you want to know more from somebody who is kind of the current guru of strength and running, stick around on the screen here shortly is my conversation on the Smart Athlete Podcast with Jason Fitzgerald, author of Strength Running and the Strength Running Blog and Show on YouTube channel. All of those things, strength running. Jason Fitzgerald, he’ll be on the screen here shortly. We have an excellent conversation. So check that out and stick around for more episodes of Runner’s High in the future.

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