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Things We Already Know: Runners don’t Lift Weights!

Posted by tdifranc on July 19, 2010

The title alone has now pissed off anyone who considers themselves a “runner” but oh well….sometimes you have to piss people off to get their attention!  If you are a runner and you do strength train consistently on a program that includes both upper and lower body focus and appropriately has you lifting HEAVY weights…then you are probably all upset right now.  My response:  Settle down Tonto!  What do you want a medal?  You are doing what you should be doing!  When I close the door behind me when I go to the bathroom you don’t hear me asking for congratulations!!!

You know how I know that “runners” don’t lift?  They DON’T HAVE TIME!!!! How can they lift if they are out pounding the pavement for hours and hours every week?  Besides lifting might slow them down – you know if they got too bulked up it could make them slower….hmmmm

No caption necessary

Anyone have that friend or co-worker or spouse who is a “runner” and they are always talking about the GREAT run they just had?  They always talk about two things:

1) Their nagging injury du jour…

2) How glad they are that they don’t have to do lower body strength training or “lift legs”

Anyone else see a correlation between those two classic comments from runners? Hmmmmm….lots of injuries and never lift legs….isn’t that strange!!! I’m not a wizard or sorcerer or anything like that but if you run all of the time, you never “lift legs”, and have injury after nagging injury then doesn’t that mean there’s something wrong with that equation???  You don’t have to be George Bush to figure that out do you???

Runners need to lift and they need to lift heavy weight and get strong!  Just like anything else there is a right way and a wrong way to do it but they need to do it!  Every step a runner takes on a run can be one that either contributes to a great run or one that contributes to a micro-trauma based injury that turns into something debilitating!  If you have no strength in your lower body but you have great endurance it doesn’t matter!  You may be able to go for hours but you will eventually break down and the only thing you will be doing for hours then is sitting on the couch while you heal!  Instead why not get strong and provide some protection to those joints, tendons, and ligaments?

Running without strength training is like trying to grab a hot pan out of the oven without an oven-mitt…you can do it but it’s going to hurt like hell after!!!  So what should a runner look to strengthen to avoid getting burned?  Here are 4 good places to start:

1) Glutes – runners with no glutes are putting constant pressure on their knees and hips!  Try any form of a dead lift for this. 

2) Hamstrings – the hamstring musculature is working all of the time during the running gait and must work with strong glutes to limit the impact throughout the lower extremity.  Additionally, they are constantly firing with the glutes to help propel each step.  How about a Val-Slide or TRX Bridge for this!

3) Anterior Core (abs) – weak abs encourage a runner to have poor posture as they run.  This then changes what is happening at the hips and all the way down the chain.  Inefficiencies are then created, micro-trauma after that and before you know it you are off the pavement and either on the couch or stuck doing laps in a pool.  How about a front plank with reach to develop the anterior core!

4) Upper Back – weak upper back musculature results in a slumped over posture while you run causing the thoracic spine to be limited and breathing to be impaired.  Runners who aren’t breathing efficiently can’t get oxygen deep into their lungs and therefore don’t get oxygen to their muscles efficiently!  I love the TRX-Y exercise for beginning to develop upper back musculature.

Keep in mind that numerous studies like the one be Leveritt et al (1999) suggest that regular bouts of endurance training can cause muscle wasting/loss.  A high volume/frequency of endurance training combined with resistance training can actually negate the effects of the resistance training.  A shift in focus from how many miles you can log to how much weight you can lift can actually make you a faster and healthier runner!  A ton of running plus a little resistance training isn’t going to help you – try bringing down the miles, add some interval training, and get serious with resistance training!

If you are a runner or you know one please stop unprotected running!  It just isn’t safe and it is very contagious – it can spread like wild fire!!! We need to stop this and you can help – the above exercises can be great protection for a runner and don’t forget the importance of single leg training either!!! Read my blog on “The Power of the Single Leg” to get some ideas on that!


Leveritt, M., et al: Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training – A Review.  Sports Medicine 28(6); 413-427, 1999.


One Response to “Things We Already Know: Runners don’t Lift Weights!”

  1. […] Understand that if you are going to run long slow distances without appropriately doing strength/interval/recovery work while employing appropriate nutrition then you will hurt yourself (regardless of your shoes). Check out these former posts to learn more about how to train right and avoid injury: A. 10 Exercises You Need To Be Doing and B. Things We Already Know: Runners Don’t Lift Weights!  […]

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