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Why weight/strength training and what are the benefits?

Runners’ weight training, what are the benefits?

The Benefits of Weight Training

The Benefits of Weight Training

The benefits of weight training, in correct dosages, are enormous. Every athlete makes the mistake of not putting back into their body what running takes out. An automobile needs services to maintain it in working order. However, an athlete does not maintain their body in the same way.Why? When the plain truths are there to be seen by everyone. Strength training adds to avoiding injuries as well as being a proven factor in improving performance. What more could one want, in your pursuit of an injury free running life with personal bests included?

The fears of the negative effects, due to weight training

As mentioned, if you apply weight training correctly there should only be positive effects. Runners need strength from their muscles, not bulk. You do not see a ‘bulky’ world class marathoner.

Correct weight training will assist in the prevention of injuries, increase muscle endurance, strengthen weak joints and muscles. It will also minimize fatigue in the upper body allowing you to drive further for longer. The aim of any good weight training routine is to help maintain and develop one’s body to deal with the stresses of running.

Studies, in the past, show that a runner benefits greatly from a program with more repetitions and less resistance (weight). For runners it is not lifting or using heavy weights, but rather lighter weights or less resistance, repeated 10-12 times each set, with maybe building to 3 sets.

Sprinters and the like may have different needs, but I’m referring to distance runners, or more specifically, 10 km and above. There have been some good studies to support this approach, especially including some plyometric training in the regimen.

Such routines help develop the muscles energy consumption and promotes the synthesis of ATP inside the mitochondria. Mitochondria is best explained as the power station to the cells. The muscles of the upper body will also benefit, which will assist in the ‘drive’, arm swing, and cadence of the legs. Less repetitions and heavier weights would result in increased muscle mass, and that is bad news. Not if you a sprinter though.

The exercises that do the whole trick

With any good weight training/strengthening program, one should concentrate on developing the whole body, with
specific attention to the following :

  • Legs
  • Arms/Chest/Back
  • Abdominals

This may look as though you are covering the whole body, we will only be supplementing the conditioning of the arms, chest and back. Running is all about efficiency and a strong and conditioned body will get you to your maximum efficiency.

Starting with your legs. They are what carries the ‘house’ and they should be treated with respect. Strength training, using weights on your legs will help develop power, increase endurance and should assist in the prevention of overuse injuries caused from running. Areas which are prone to overuse injuries should be strengthened, ie. your achilles and quadriceps. Keeping the correct balance between the front and the rear of your legs is absolutely essential. Hamstring curls, calf raises, leg extensions and squats can help strengthen your quadriceps and achilles.

The strengthening of your upper body is essential for hilly courses and is most beneficial for maintaining rhythm when your legs begin to fatigue. A great amount of drive can be generated from your arms when climbing hills. Dumbbell and barbell curls, pull ups, military presses, chin ups, bench press, and rowing are recommended.

Your abdominals are also important to running. The abs provide stability for the trunk of the body, since you are moving most of your extremities. Strong abs and the correct balance can reduce the possibility of lower back pain caused through running.

The stability between your lower back and your abs is essential for pain free running. Crunches, bent leg sit-ups, and leg raises are perfect for strengthening these areas.

Cross-training is all the hype, however there is no substitute for running to improve your running. If you want to skip running days with the belief that something else can replace it, you are wrong. If you are not a serious runner then skipping days to do bicycling, rollerblading, rowing, or swimming, is fine.

The runner in pursuit of Personal Bests can add cross-training, to their running schedule, to further tone and strengthen their muscles.

If a monotonous running schedule has brought on ‘staleness’, then a ride on a bicycle or a swim may be just the break you need. However, if you are suffering the syptoms of overtraining, a rest is probably the answer. [more on overtraining later]

When starting off with weight training don’t rush off to the nearest store and purchase equipment without the correct knowledge of what is best for you. You are cautious when buying your shoes, so why not be cautious now. Joining a good fitness club can be the answer, as well. The added bonus is the club should have trainers to assist you.

Always remember you a runner first and foremost and not a body builder. Make sure the trainer understands this,
then remind yourself. Do not start a new weight training schedule just before an event or just after. Firstly, your muscles need to adapt to the new training and after an event your muscles need to recover from the event.

View further articles in the Strength section:

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