Should Runners Lift Weights?

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: November 25, 2020

Whether you run to manage your weight, run competitive races or are just trying to healthy you might be surprised by the effect that weight training can have on your running. So, should runners lift weights?

Photo by Gursimrat Ganda on Unsplash

What you’ll learn in this article:

✓ Why runners should lift weights?
✓ How to maximise the benefits of lifting weights
✓ Weight lifting mistakes for runners to avoid
✓ The health benefits of runners lifting weights

Weight training can be incredibly beneficial to runners of all abilities, it not only strengthens you and builds muscle but also enhances your running performance.

Research has shown that lifting weights helps you to lose fat, enhances overall well-being and importantly for runners, minimizes incidences of injury and pain.    

How runners should lift weights

While lots of runners know that they could benefit from lifting weights, most don’t know where to start (other than buying the weights).

This uncertainty puts runners off and sees them sticking to what they know, crushing it on the track or enjoying clocking up the miles with friends.

There are lots of mistakes that a runner can make when lifting weights.

But with benefits that include injury prevention and becoming stronger and faster, it’s worth taking the time to learn what works.

To get the best from weight lifting as a runner, you need to do it correctly.

You should avoid the following mistakes:

Runners lift for endurance

When lifting weights, runners will more often than not try and do a high number of repetitions, concentrating their effort on how many times they can lift rather than how much.

This helps to enhance endurance, but as running builds endurance better than the weight room, you won’t gain much from taking this approach.

Running don’t lift enough

The other mistake that runners make in the weight room is working with very light weights. If your aim is to be a stronger runner, you should challenge yourself with heavier weights to get the maximum benefit from weight lifting as a runner.

Lack of rest between sets

The third and final mistake that runners make in the weight room is a lack of rest between sets. Often runners try to make exercises feel hard by making them highly metabolic and aerobic.

Runners want to breathe hard, however, lifting for speed and strength needs adequate rest. Without enough rest, you do not gain strength. Therefore, lifting weights ineffectively wastes your precious time without giving you any benefit.

So how should runners lift weights for better results? Instead of engaging in weight lifting for endurance, runners should lift weights for strength.

You should aim to maintain a repetition between the range of 6 and 10 in 3 sets (a repetition is one complete motion of an exercise, and a set is a group of consecutive repetitions).

By lifting a moderate volume that does not focus on endurance, a runner can lift heavier weights. Your lifting weight will differ considerably depending on your ability. However, to make the workout a challenge, you should ensure that the few reps at the end of the exercise are hard.

To ensure that you recover fully from lifting heavier weights, you should take enough rests between sets. It takes a person a minute or two to replace adenosine triphosphate (the biochemical way our muscles store and use energy). So take two minutes to rest between sets.


Resting this long between sets boosts your optimal performance and reduces the chances of having to stop as a result of fatigue. The risk of injury is also reduced by adequate rest between sets.

The benefits of lift weights

While running alone is effective when you are a beginner, to reach your full potential, a runner should lift weights. Below are some of the reasons why you should consider lifting weight as a runner:

Lifting weights increases a runners speed

With strengthening exercises focused on the lower body, a runner can increase their pace. Training type II muscle fibers with heavier lifting can improve speed as well as help you at the tail end of a long race when your type I fibers are fatigued.

Lifting weights makes runners less injury prone

Stronger body composition corrects muscular and structural imbalances. These are the imbalances that result in running injuries. For instance, runners experience muscle aches and joint pains as a result of force that comes from pounding the pavement.

Weight lifting, on the other hand, strengthens the connective tissues and bones to ease any discomfort that come with the pounding force. Additionally, endurance training stimulates high production of oxidative stress and cortisol. To counter the high-stress level, resistance exercises increase antioxidants and reduce inflammation.

Lifting weights increases a runner’s aerobic threshold

Regardless of the distance and level of your running, proper-aerobic combined with strength training helps a runner to run faster. This happens by enhancing the body’s ability to take maximum oxygen or V02. This is the standard aerobic capacity measure. High levels of VO2 results in faster speeds and sustained running.

Lifting weights helps a runner lose fat

When done properly weight training grows muscles, and bigger muscles burn more fat. It’s also been shown that long term fat loss becomes more sustainable when muscle mass increases.

Lifting weights helps a runners posture

Runners are usually at a risk of developing stoop. This is where the runner’s shoulders bend forward while their body weights changes. This places unnecessary pressure on the spine. The posture of a runner deteriorates during a long run when their postural muscles get exhausted.

When this happens, the muscles cannot hold good posture at all without conscious effort. Therefore, when a runner obtains a stronger core, the chances of stooping are low.

While performing strength training, you should not only work on your lower body but also your upper body. Weight lifting exercises work greatly on your shoulders by retracting them. Working out your core through endless sit-ups or planks will not be very effective. Such workouts will also not help you improve your running performance.

Performing deadlifts and squats are multi-joint exercises that work out your core more effectively. As a result, the runner gets more stable when lifting and moving. Weighted rowing exercises also help you develop strength in your upper muscles at the back. This makes it simpler to keep form and delays any stooping unconsciously.

Weight lifting helps avoid blood pooling

If a runner does not perform weight training, endurance athletes have a high probability of developing a large left ventricle in the heart. This is in relation to the runner’s heart muscle thickness. The larger heart chamber is important when it comes to delivering oxygenated blood in high volumes.

The high volume of oxygenated blood is important in fuelling high activity levels. However, if the heart chamber is not proportional in size, blood pooling can be the result. This happens in extremities when the vascular and heart system aren’t strong enough to circulate a lot of blood. One common symptom is feeling dizzy when you stand up.

When runners perform weight training, with enough intensity, the training strengthens the heart walls. This maximizes the ability of the heart to pump blood all through the body in an effective manner. This is why you need to perform weight lifts as a runner for overall well-being.

Weight lifting improves a runners insulin health

Hormone insulin regulates the glucose amounts in the body. However, if you generate lots of insulin, the body becomes resistant to the hormone, and this causes type 2 diabetes.

Weight training has proven to maximize the secretion of hormone irisin which enhances insulin management. Hormone irisin production also ensures that your somatic cells are highly sensitive to the hormone insulin. This is very helpful, especially to runners who consistently consume carbs before engaging in a race. Therefore, this means that as a runner, you should consider engaging in weight lifting to prevent diabetes type 2 condition.

Antioxidants enhancement

To maximize the number of free radicals in your system, you should perform workouts that increase your rate of breathing. Free radicles lead to muscle fatigue, and in such cases, antioxidants reduce the exhaustion. Weight training has proven to maximize the rate of antioxidant production in the body. However, for those who train effectively, their bodies manage to deal with free radicals in a better way.

Bottom Line

There are numerous benefits that come as a result of lifting weights as a runner. You will enhance your running performance and also improve your overall well-being. Invest your time doing the right lifting exercises as a runner and your running experience will never be the same again.

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