Running Myths Part 2: Strength Training Will Make Me Slower

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Strength Training Will Make Me Slower

This series focuses on a number of myths we often hear at Sycamore Health relating to physiotherapy and exercise. Our goal is not that you become discouraged from exercising, but rather that you train safely, effectively and often!

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to heavy strength training and running. We know there’s strong evidence that resistance training has a myriad of health benefits and reduces the risk of overuse injury in athletes by approximately 50% (2). Despite strong evidence of strength trainings utility for runners, many simply avoid lifting heavy things and instead just run more! 

A prevalent misconception among runners is that strength training will make you run slower. The theory seems to be that strength training will increase muscle size, which will increase total body weight, which will result in a decrease in running performance.

However, it seems this isn’t true!

Rønnestad & Mujika (2013) have shown that total body mass doesn’t increase when strength training is added into an endurance running program. Far from strength training being an impediment to running performance, it seems to increase running economy and running performance (3).

Bettina and colleagues (2016) incorporated six weeks of heavy resistance training in a group of moderately trained runners. The group improved their 5km race times by almost 4%. In contrast, the control group - who only did endurance training - saw no changes.

So, should runners include strength training in their programs?

  • Absolutely!

Should runners simply launch into a heavy resistance training cycle to improve their performance?

  • Well, no.

Jumping into heavy resistance training without proper preparation can cause injury! An endurance athlete should complete a short preparatory cycle of moderate resistance training before moving to very heavy weights.

If you’re unsure where to start or how to maximise your running performance, contact us. Physiotherapists are specialists in exercise and would love to help you take control of your health. We can even address any underlying or lingering injuries or pain you may have.

Next up in this series: Running Myths Part 3 - The “Glutes” Are The Most Important Muscles

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1. Bettina, K., Liesbeth, S., Mark, C., Eneko, L.-Z., & Fernando, N. (2016). The Effects of Sport-Specific Maximal Strength and Conditioning Training on Critical Velocity, Anaerobic Running Distance, and 5-km Race Performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(1), 80-85. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2014-0559
2. Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(11), 871.
3. Rønnestad, B. R., & Mujika, I. (2013). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), 603-612. doi: 10.1111/sms.12104

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