Why Marathon Runners Should Lift Weights

Preparing for a marathon can be hard work and long training hours, but if done correctly you can prepare yourself for any event. That being said, your specific approach to marathon training will depend on many different things – your available time to train, your running background, current fitness level, willingness to commit to a training plan, and more.



Weight training is often overlooked when it comes to marathon training. You might find that some coaches still dismiss weight training as they fear their athletes will become “big and bulky” but this is definitely nothing more than a myth. Many top runners and coaches have come around to the realization that muscular strength and conditioning are important both for runners’ performance and their overall health.

3 Reasons to Incorporate Weight Training

1. Run Faster, Run Longer & More Efficiently

Weight training has its benefits when training for a race. Think about it, the stronger your muscles are, the more work they can do. So if your legs have more power, they can last longer during a marathon before giving out. You will also recover way faster because your body becomes more efficient at A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who added 3 days of strength training to their weekly routine increased their leg strength and endurance. Another study in the Journal of Sports Sciences concluded that all endurance runners increased their endurance after 8 weeks on a strength training program. This also helped them to increase their sprinting ability which is extremely useful during the final stretch of the race.



2. Better Coordination

Think about this – your entire body is dependent upon your core  and posterior chain muscles for stabilization. These muscles are what make up the entire midsection from front to back.  Your running technique will be greatly improved due to the weight training and it will take longer to be fatigued because the muscles can handle more work



3. Reduced Risk of Injury

Most people don’t realize it but, weight lifting actually can help to reduce the risk of many injuries. Weight lifting has a great impact on increasing bone density and strength. The majority of running injuries happen due to muscle weaknesses or imbalances in the hip, knees, and ankles. As you build strength, you will have better joint stability. Incorporating exercises such as the barbell squat will not only build the legs, strengthen the core, but also improve hip mobility, and ankle stability.

Guidelines for Weight Training During Prep Time

Schedule your weight training session on days that you are not doing lengthy runs. Running long distances is physically draining, and adding weight training to that burden risks overworking the body. Runners who exert too much find themselves becoming weakened toward the end of their training.



When training for a marathon, your overall training volume should be kept low, which is why compound exercises are perfect. Compound exercises are those that require multiple muscles to complete the movement. In essence, you can train your entire body with a few exercises. Examples are deadlifts, squats, push-ups, step-ups, pull-ups, bench press, and power cleans. Spending too much time on isolation exercises such as triceps extensions, or hammer curls or leg extensions can be time consuming and require much m ore energy, making it harder for you to recovery while leaving you with less energy to train for your runs. But don’t be afraid to incorporate 1-2 isolation moves per session if you want to focus on a single muscle group.



Following a workout program that targets all major muscle groups is important in maintaining muscular balance and avoiding injury, but it can help your marathon performance as well. Some exercises to prevent muscular instabilities are planks, lunges, leg lifts, and pistol squats.

A sample training split may be:

  • Day 1: Race Training
  • Day 2: Upper Body Weight Training Circuit
  • Day 3: Race Training
  • Day 4: Full Body Weight Training Circuit
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Interval Cardio Training
  • Day 7: Rest

These sessions don’t need to last too long just choose 3-5 exercises and complete 3 sets of 8 reps with a challenging, yet manageable weight.

Recovering from Exercise

It’s important to make time to recover between exercise routines so that you maintain your energy level and allow your muscles enough time to rest and properly repair after weight training. You muscles actually get stronger during the repair process, not the actual training phase.  Remember to get 7-10 hours of sleep every night to ensure that your muscles are ready for another intense training session. Your body will thank you the next day!

Nutrition and Supplementation

You’re going to burn a lot of calories during your marathon training which is why you should eat properly throughout your training. It is crucial to keep your energy levels up and maximizing recovery. Precise nutritional needs may vary from athlete to athlete, but in general, you should prioritize protein and carbs both before and after you run. These are the types of fuel that the body needs most during intensive work, and supplements can help you find them in easily digestible forms.



Consider using whey protein powder, which will quickly help you meet your protein needs. The amino acid glutamine is recommended by a wide-range of athletes to aid in the recovery and repair process, as are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which can safeguard against lean muscle tissue loss. Also remember to drink plenty of water



Preparing for a marathon might be tough but with proper weight training you will help to boost your muscle strength and endurance, reduce potential injury, while increasing your fitness levels and maintaining a lean physique. Get ready to run your best race ever!


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