4×4 squats: An easy & effective way to improve your distance running

Research reviewed: Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners. Storen & Stoa. Medicine and science in sports & exercise 2008

The evidence on the benefits of strength training for long-distance runners – whether it’s for reducing injury risk or boosting performance – is becoming increasingly robust. However, the key question for distance runners who already spend considerable time planning and then executing their runs is “how do I find the time?”

Well you’re in luck because research has found a simple and effective squat program that increases endurance, running economy (efficiency), and rate of force development (which means more speed).

Researchers from Norway took two groups of randomly assigned equal level runners with genders distributed equally and for one of them added four sets of four squats (a 4×4 set) three times per week for eight total weeks in addition to their endurance training vs the other group who continued on with their normal endurance training.

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The results for even this relatively low does of strength training were clear (you can complete a 4×4 set in roughly 10 minutes so we’re talking only adding 30 minutes total of training time per week) for the 4×4 squat group:

  • Time to running exhaustion (endurance) increased by 21.3%
  • Running economy increased by 5%
  • Rate of force development jumped by 26%

And the cherry on top – which many runners still fear when thinking about lifting – there were no differences in body weight between the two groups after the eight weeks.

We’re finding that the minimal effective dose for strength training is so low and the benefits so high that it’s almost irresponsible not to be in a strength training program if you’re an endurance runner.

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Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT, (@3cbperformance) is a physiotherapist, movement expert, strength and conditioning/fitness coach, sports scientist and mindfulness coach. He runs the LA and online based physiotherapy and athletic performance clinic 3CB Performance and you can subscribe to his Youtube channel (which posts a variety of sports injury, performance, and fitness related content).

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