Posted in Team Finish Line.
Should Runners Lift Big?
by Jimmy Williams, PT, DPT
Every runner is told they should strength train, maybe you’ve even heard us say it a few times. 😉 Most times, you’ll grab the 5 lb dumbbells and get to work on a few exercises with a lot of reps. Perhaps you went to physical therapy due to an injury and were given certain exercises to do at home and continue to do said exercises even though you are no longer injured. I bet those exercises feel a lot easier than the first time you did them too. Loading is a concept termed for how much weight our body is capable of moving in a certain way. When you get injured, your loading ability is significantly reduced because of pain and often tissue damage. Through physical therapy, we can help you get back to your pre-injury load capacity and sometimes even further. Remember, running is 2-3x your body weight with every foot step. That’s a lot of load for your muscles/tendons to absorb over time.
That’s a lengthy reason for the short answer ABSOLUTELY runners should lift heavy weights when they are strength training. We get plenty of endurance from our sport and cross training but in order to build true muscle strength, we need to lift heavy weights for sets of 5-12 repetitions over 3-5 sets. Building this global strength in your body will help you be able to absorb the forces felt during impact and reduce your risk of becoming injured. In fact, several studies have found that runners who performed an appropriately structured strength training program were less likely to get injured than runners who perform static stretching everyday. Strengthen your body to improve its ability to load, don’t stretch it.
Now most runners have no idea where to start when it means “lift heavy” and this is not something that I would recommend exploring on your own. Talk to a friend who knows what they’re doing in the gym, a running and/or strength coach, personal trainer or physical therapist. Getting the proper loading down will ensure that you are gaining muscle adaptations without impairing the next week of run training because of high soreness levels. Performing your strength training at the right time will also ensure it does not impair your run training. I often recommend performing a strength workout the day of or the day after a quality, hard run such as a track workout or tempo run. You’ll be sore anyways and you can use your recovery runs to help recover from the quality session and the strength session at the same time. I typically recommend 2-3 days per week of strength training while in the offseason and then reducing it down to 1-2 days per week as you inch closer to your race season.