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Many runners simply do not have much interest in weight training. Many are concerned that lifting heavy weights will add bulky muscle that is not conducive to running fast. Runners are supposed to be lean and toned, right? Well, new research is casting is shedding some light on the importance of weight training for runners.
In a 2006 study, runners were divided into two groups and observed over a period of eight weeks. All runners performed the same amount of distance training (mostly consisting of training runs), except that one group included strength training three times to week instead of running.
The strength training sessions lasted 30-60 minutes and consisted of: (1) jumping exercises (hurdle jumps, squat jumps, calf jumps, etc.), or (2) gym exercises with low weight, including half squats, knee extension, calf raises, abdominal curls, and back extensions (2-3 sets with 6-10 repetitions per set).
After the eight week observation period, the study’s authors tested the runners and found that the strength training group had comparably more improvement in anaerobic and neuromuscular performance. While there was no difference in running economy and endurance performance between the groups, the strength training group had no decrease in aerobic performance even though those runners had replaced distance training with weight training three times per week. In other words, engaging in strength training instead of endurance training three times per week did not hurt the group’s endurance.
The authors mention that the results of the study were in line with other studies that have found strength training to benefit neuromuscular and anaerobic performance without harming aerobic running capacity. The key take away is that strength training is an important part of any running program, even if the strength training may cause a slight decrease in the time you have to do traditional distance training.