Running is wonderful exercise. It lowers the heart rate, increases the metabolism, and greatly benefits the blood pressure, lungs and overall health. In fact, despite potential damage to the knees from impact, it is often touted as the best form of exercise out there.
That’s a good argument, but it’s wrong. The problem with running is that it’s inherently unbalanced. The major muscles worked are all in the lower body. There are some secondary groups, depending on your running form, in the abdominals and lower back. It’s also all endurance training.
Adding weight lifting to the mix is good. Adding the right weight lifting will do really good things for your running. It strengthens the muscles, which will allow you to generate more power in your legs. More power means more force applied, which means more speed. Lifting will also stabilize your gait, which makes your running form more efficient.
Also, lifting weights will allow you to strengthen the secondary muscles in your legs, the vastus muscles, the adductors and the abductors. While these won’t affect your running directly, these are the muscles that stabilize the rest of your leg muscles, cutting down on injury potential. The adductors and abductors also work with the gluteus muscles, keeping the hips seated correctly. Anybody who has ever had a pinched sciatic nerve can say why proper hip placement a good thing.
Why do we care? Because unbalanced muscular development promotes injuries. Not just in the underdeveloped muscles, but in the muscles that are more developed. Why? Because they’re going to over compensate during those times the less developed muscles can’t quite do the full job they’re supposed to. Your quadriceps is a muscular group that is supposed to straighten your leg out. If they’re compensating for the underdeveloped adductors, you’re going to throw out your hip, which messes up your back, which throws off your stride, and so on, and so on.
But weight lifting does more than just keep your leg muscles working evenly. You can use weight lifting to strengthen your back muscles, helping your posture and making sure that your breathing while you run is better, your lungs fuller. It will cut down on the pain you get in the small of your back if you’ve been running for more than a mile. Stronger back and abdominal muscles will also help stabilize your stride.
You don’t have to lift huge amounts of weight, and you don’t have to be working out like a Mr. Olympia contestant. Just grabbing a pair of 25 pound dumbbells and exercising with those will help do the job and get your various muscles groups toned up.