Most runners I know despise the gym. Who wouldn’t rather be cruising on some mountain ridge or twisty single track than sweating it out on the squat rack? If you’re looking for some longevity in your running career, however, and looking to do everything you can to avoid injury, then you may need to reconsider. The good news is that it doesn’t take much! 30 - 40 minutes of lifting twice a week is all it takes for most runners to build the necessary strength to significantly reduce the risk of a running related injury.
In the past, light weights were king - lots of repetitions and light weights build endurance without adding bulk, right? Wrong! If you run a lot you’ve already got the endurance part covered. To build strength and injury-proof yourself, heavy weights reign.
I recommend heavy lifting that targets multiple large muscle groups. Runners should focus on deadlifts and squats, with all their variations. Aim to perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps. How heavy? A good rule of thumb I use is that you should have 1 or 2 lifts left in the tank at the end of each set. These are challenging but the strength gains occur rapidly. I also like bench presses, pull-ups and the farmers carry.
Runners are often worried about getting ‘big’ but I can tell you it takes a lot more than this to develop big muscles!
Why are these heavy lifts so effective? Think of it like this - lots of individual muscle fibres are essentially ‘asleep’ when we run. Our neurological system doesn’t know how to wake them, hence they go unused. These challenging heavy lifts demand all your muscle fibres wake up, and once they’ve been activated, we can more easily tap into them. Without lifting you have this large, untapped potential in your muscles.
Strong muscles and tendons means less risk of overload, faster recovery from training sessions, improved performance and less risk of injury. Its really all good!