Written By: Daisha M. Savage, Program Manager, NOAA Fitness Center
With so many summer races and color runs approaching, let’s attempt to answer an age old question: Should runners do strength training?
My answer: ABSOLUTELY!
There has been much debate over this topic. In previous days, runners ran for training. Now, we know that runners need to be strong in addition to having efficient cardiorespiratory systems. Runners must be able to maintain “running posture” for the duration of a run. Their muscles also have to be as efficient as possible in order to contract at an optimal rate. Strength training will improve both these aspects.
Much of the debate now lies in whether or not runners should lift heavy or light, whether they should be on a generalized program- strengthening all the muscles in the body, or if they should be doing specialized training.
I believe that specialized strength training, also known as sport-specific training, is always the way to go. Although runners will see improvements in both distance and duration with any kind of strength incorporation, I think it’s more beneficial to strengthen the muscles the same way they are being used during the activity (sport-specific) as opposed to general lifting. This article does a great job explaining that concept: Why All Runners Should Strength Train .
Also, this second article does an excellent job of explaining two opposing views of this debate. Although it was written in 2006, I thought it was a very interesting read because many people still share the same view today. Please note that research has developed extensively since then and the general consensus among experts is that runners should engage in some sort of strength training (the jury is still out on which type is the best!). To Lift Or Not To Lift: Why Runners Should Strength Train .
Are you a runner who does strength training? Have you seen any benefits? Which side of the debate do you agree with and why?