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Should I weight train my legs to help my running?

Perhaps a better question would be “should I strength train my legs to help my running?” Weight training implies use of machines or free weights while strength training could also include body resistance exercises, Pilates, Swiss ball exercises, plyometrics, hill repeats, etc.  For this article, however, I will just address weight training.

In general, my answer to the question would be “yes”.  I believe that weight training can be a big benefit to all runners.  How can it help provide an advantage?

  • A good, consistent, overall program can improve running posture and mechanics.
  • Running speed is the result of stride frequency x stride length.  Stride length can be improved through increased muscle strength and flexibility.  Various “quick” or “explosive” lifts can also help improve stride frequency.
  • An increase in strength can help improve joint stability and balance.  This results in less “sinking” or “collapsing” with each ground contact.
  • Stronger muscles are more efficient.  Over the course of a long race, this can be a huge advantage.
  • While this question concerned weight training for legs, a good program would also incorporate lifts that provide overall strength training improving core strength and posture.  It is impossible to separate upper and lower body efficiency.

If you decide to incorporate weight training into your program, there are several things to consider:

  • The time to begin a weight training program is during the off-season.  Starting a program during the season will probably be counterproductive.
  • Perhaps the most important consideration is that you must be consistent in your weight/strength training.  Once a week or less frequent will probably just leave you stiff and sore.  A solid program would involve three or four sessions per week.
  • You must start light and gradually increase the resistance.  This will help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness that may interfere with the normal training routine.
  • Weight training must be a supplement to and not a replacement for the normal workout routine.  If weight training interferes with the normal training cycle, it may be counterproductive.

Conclusion: Weight training for your legs can help you reach your goals in many ways.  However, an overall weight training program will be much more beneficial.  Should you start a lifting program?

Consider this: Let’s say your general running program is responsible for 90% of your success.  Nutrition, sleep, general core work (abs), workout/injury rehabilitation, etc., are responsible for another 8%.  If weight training could provide a 2% improvement in your performance, that could be as much as 25-30 seconds over a 5000 meter race.  If you are a high school runner, look at results and see how many places that would move you up in the State Championships.  Is it worth it?  Your call.

by Roger Buhrley – High School Cross Country and Track and Field Coach / Runner

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Expert Answers, Utah Running, Weight training. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

4 responses to “Should I weight train my legs to help my running?”

  1. Marion Latch says:

    I have been able to work with weights now that I am in high school, and I want to learn which vitamins and minerals to take. I want to take only natural things and stay away from anything like steriods. No way am I gonna mess myself up. Anybody have any advice?

  2. Up-to-date post here, you know, I never really gave it much thought how topical it is to maintain in shape and ready. There’s no difference if it’s for events of emergency and good health will aid yank yourself and the other person through, or if it’s in normal, everyday life when good fitness is critical for everyday health and wellbeing. I say, exercise, do core training, and you’ll be ready for anything. That’s for sure!

  3. The finest fat loss workout involves high intensity interval training, a typical sense diet and plenty of rest.

  4. Hyon Loshek says:

    Nice. Thanks for posting this. It is always cool to see someone give back to the world.

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