Increase Foot and Leg Strength with Underwater Running

Increase Foot and Leg Strength with Underwater Running

Running underwater has many positive effects: it reduces the risk of injury from increased training, improves cardiovascular performance, and helps the body to recover from hard training. Another, often overlooked, side effect of underwater training is increased muscle strength.

A study at Texas A&M University has shown that resistance training plus aquatic treadmill training can elicit greater gains in lean muscle mass than resistance training alone or even resistance training combined with land training. This study focuses on an interesting aspect of underwater treadmill running because while it is often thought that cardiovascular training and resistance training are not often accomplished simultaneously, there may be evidence this is not true.

As compelling as this study is for increasing leg strength, elite Oregon Project runner, Galen Rupp provides more proof on how consistently using the underwater treadmill has shown to increase foot and leg strength. Rupp uses the pool as a regular part of his weekly training program as well as for recovery. As Oregon Project coach, Alberto Salazar states,

“I believe that running against the resistance of the water buys an extra sort of strength building exercise…you’re also going to get these muscle strengthening effects by running underwater vs. outside.”

By doing a normal range of motion and mimicking one’s outdoor running form in the pool, you actually work harder to push through the water.  This has a positive effect an individual’s entire body. As a result of this study, it has been proven that running in the water leads to increased muscle strength in the legs, feet, hip flexors and extensors, core and even little stabilizing muscles throughout your body.

As the Oregon Project runners work to compete against the East Africans in distance running, Salazar encourages his runners to run barefoot on the underwater treadmill to strengthen muscles in their feet.  He has seen the effect it has had on Rupp and his stride and feels it is an important part of his runners’ training.

Follow the Oregon Project runners as they compete indoors in the upcoming weeks!

Watch Salazar and Rupp discuss how they see underwater running increasing strength:


Download the book, “Underwater Treadmill Running,” by Alberto Salazar and Dr. Dennis Dolny>> Download


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