What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

May 3, 2013

Over the past week and a half I started going to the gym to work on resistance training. It’s been a while since I’ve done any strength training so the first few sessions were rough because I was so sore. While I was working out I began to wonder if strength training was going to affect my running capabilities. My strength training workouts consisted of lower body, upper body and core exercises. Today was my first day running after strength training and even though I was a little sore, I did not feel my running was affected. I stayed within the range I have been running, which was about a 9:50 mile running for approximately 20 minutes. I do not know for sure if my running economy was be effected because it is too short of a time frame to see significant findings, so I decided to do some research.

            Strength training has been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy and motor unit recruitment. There are many health benefits of resistance training including reduced risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, low back pain and depression1. In a study done by Kelly et al., researchers studied whether a heavy strength training program in addition to an endurance running program would significantly improve 3-km run times in a group of recreationally fit women. The 10-week training program consisted of one group doing an endurance running program and one group doing a concurrent endurance running program and strength training program using low repetitions and high weights. When just looking at 3-km times, the strength and endurance subjects were not significantly faster than the endurance only subjects2. Something I would have liked to see is if the repetitions and weights were changed such that they were doing higher reps (15) with lower weights or even general hypertrophy repetitions of 8-12 with weight 70-75% of 1 rep max.

In a systematic review of five concurrent resistance training and endurance training (CT), Yamamoto et al. researched the effects of resistance training on endurance running on performance of highly trained runners. The resistance training that was conducted in the five CT studies was explosive and/or heavy lifting. In this study the five CT studies suggest that strength training performed improved long-distance running performance. Many of the athletes used in these studies were not strength trained, which could be a reason for improvement because of neuromuscular adaptations. Additionally, the research studies performed showed improved 3k and 5k run times in trained distance runners who incorporated explosive strength training to their normal endurance training programs. Running economy was also researched in two studies. It has been shown to influence performance. Running economy involves the relationship of VO2 and a given running velocity. In the two studies performed plyometric training along with endurance training and heavy weight training along with endurance training improved running economy.

Strength training seems to help elite athletes, but seems to be unaffected for recreational athletes. Therefore, in regards does strength training affect running performance I cannot validate a single conclusion to this argument.

  1. Westcott W. ACSM Strength training guidelines. Role in body composition and health enhancement. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal. 2009;13(4):14-22
  2. Kelly CM, Burnett AF, Newton MJ. The effect of strength training on three-kilometer performance in recreational women endurance runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;22(2):396-403
  3. Yamamoto LM et al. The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: a systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;22(6):2036-2044.
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