Will Weight Lifting Help You Run Better?
If you’re a runner, will lifting weights help you run better? Find out what a study shows – and the pros and cons of lifting weights if you’re a runner.
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If you’re a serious runner, you probably spend little time in the gym lifting weights – especially if you run long distances. On the other hand, some fitness experts believe that most runners can benefit from a good strength training program. Should runners lift weights?
Should Runners Lift Weights: Does Weight Lifting Help You Run Better?
According to a study published in the Strength Conditioning Journal, lifting weights increases running speed and reduces the amount of energy expended during a run. In other words, it makes you faster and more efficient. On the other hand, running does the same thing, and time spent in the gym is time you’re not pounding the pavement.
Another argument for lifting weights is it helps reduce the risk of injury by strengthening muscles and stabilizing joints. If you do a complete weight training workout, it also strengthens muscles you don’t use running such as those in the upper body and core, which creates a more balanced physique.
Will Weight Lifting Make You a Better Runner: Who Benefits the Most?
Weight lifting has the most benefits for runners who run short distances, especially sprinters. Running strengthens the leg muscles and increases the number of fast-twitch fibers. These are the muscle fibers activated during a high-intensity sprint.
Running is less beneficial for long-distance runners who run at a slower speed and rarely activate fast-twitch muscle fibers. In fact, building bulky leg muscles can work against a runner who distance runs competitively. There’s a reason why the most long-distance runners are long, lean and never bulky.
Should Runners Lift Weights: The Take Home Message?
If you want to run better – and faster – for short distances, weight training has definite benefit. The benefits are less clear-cut for distance runners who want to stay lean and streamlined.
At the very least, distance runners should do core exercises and strength train with lighter resistance to reduce the risk of injury. Higher repetitions using a lighter weight builds muscle endurance without creating bulk. Cross-training by alternating short periods of running or plyometrics with strength training exercises is another way to boost endurance.
The bottom line? It’s important to consider your objectives before embarking on a weight lifting program. If the goal is to increase endurance and run longer distances, use lighter weights and more repetitions. If you want to be the world’s greatest sprinter, weight train with heavier weights several times a week. And don’t forget about plyometrics – almost any runner can benefit from them.
Strength Conditioning Journal 29: 28-35, 2007.
Fitness Prescription for Women. June 2007. page 18.