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Total Body Strength

Your Body Strengthens by Overcoming Resistance

The following suggestions for runners to use weight training as a cross-training to supplement their running were given by a friend of mine who is a medical doctor who has been involved in running and consecutive resistance training (cross-training) for many years. This program is not a professionally designed training program but is for amateur and recreational exercisers.

Why Weight Training?

Incorporating weight training (also referred to as strength training and resistance training) as a cross-training into one's overall fitness program can provide benefits to all runners, whether they are recreational runners or are training for events ranging from sprints to ultra marathons.

Benefits of Weight Training

Upper Body. A strong upper body helps minimizes fatigue and stiffness in the arms, shoulders, and neck areas. This enables a runner to maintain form late in a marathon race or long run. Legs move only as fast as the arms swing. The runner with a strong upper body will have more power for a sprint or kick to the finish line, an easier crank up a hill, and better balance when running on trails. All of these add up to an ability to run faster and more efficiently.

Legs. Running creates a slight muscular imbalance in the legs as the hamstrings and calf muscles develop at a faster rate than the quadriceps and shins. Weight training helps address this imbalance. Additionally, strong quads and hips help protect these areas from a variety of injuries. Strong legs also offer protection from the possibility of injury when running at a fast pace downhill.

Abdominals. A strong abdominal region helps protect the back while at the same time assists in maintaining proper running form and posture.

Related Benefits of Weight Training

Fat Burning. The increase in lean muscle mass that results from strength training is the key to your body's ability to metabolize glucose and thus burn fat. This occurs because muscle cells require more energy (and also burn more calories) than fat cells.

Body Composition Changes. As one ages, the body changes in composition as lean muscles decrease while fat deposits increase. Muscular strength also declines approximately 5% -10% per decade for the untrained individual. Strength training slows down this process even as one reaches their senior years.

Bone Protection. Weight training helps protect bones. This is an important benefit, particularly for women, as decreased estrogen production causes bone demineralization. This in turn increases the risks of osteoporosis and the additional risk of incurring stress fractures. Muscles tugging on bone structure as a result of weight training facilitate bone regeneration.

Diabetes and Heart Disease. According to the medical literature, weight training seems to reduce the risk factors for adult-onset diabetes as well as heart disease.

Choosing the Right Weight of Dumbbells

You can start your training program at home. You don’t need all those gym machines, gears, etc. All you need are dumbbells and a simple bench (or some improvisation like two chairs put together).

How to choose the right weight? Well, for a good training, all-around program you should pick a weight that you can lift a number of times using good form. Picking a weight that is too heavy will lead to bad form and injury. If the weight is too light, you are holding back your progress. Keep in mind that it’s better to pick a weight that is too light than a weight that is too heavy. Here are suggestions for choosing your dumbbells.

bulletToo Heavy. You can't to lift the weight more than 7  times.
bulletJust Right. You can lift the weight 8 - 14 times without huffing and puffing.
bulletToo Light. You can lift the weight more than 14 times.

You can modify these suggestions to help you reach your goals, even on a daily basis. Remember, as a runner you use weight lifting only as cross-training for overall health and fitness. Your goal is not to build bulk! You should vary your training routine in intensity, duration, and frequency (per day or per week). Measuring your weight daily will help you avoid gaining extra pounds.

It is important to keep in mind that you probably won't lose weight when you start a weight-conditioning program. Assuming that you eat sensibly, your percentage of total body fat (the true measure of progress) should decrease. Thus, weighing yourself on your scale may be misleading and may also be discouraging.

Many people who begin a weight-training program express concern that they will develop huge, bulky muscles. Unlike power lifters and body builders who focus their workouts on lifting the heaviest amount of weight they can handle for a few repetitions, runners who lift weights as cross-training will probably not develop huge muscles. By following the suggestions outlined in this program, you will instead become a stronger runner with improved muscular tone and definition.

Cautions and Tips

bulletIf you are over the age of 40 and/or have a history of serious medical problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., check with your physician before beginning a strength-training program.
bulletWarm up with some aerobic activities such as running, jogging or cycling before lifting.
bulletIn planning your daily fitness routine, schedule your run prior to lifting.
bulletAvoid weight training legwork on days before races, speed work sessions, or long runs.
bulletMake sure that your muscles get adequate rest between sessions by lifting every other day for a minimum of 2-3 days per week.
bulletRemember to get enough sleep.
bulletEmphasize lighter weights and more repetitions (12-15 reps) as opposed to lifting the maximum weight you can handle a few times.
bulletPlan your routine so that you begin with the legs first, upper body second, and mid-section last. On a similar note, focus on exercising the large muscle groups first followed by the smaller groups. For example, when working the upper body, start with the chest and lats and conclude with the biceps and triceps.
bulletRemember to work your abdominal muscles.
bulletDon't hold your breath while lifting weights. Breathe in on the relaxation phase and out while performing the resistance/lifting part of the exercise. Be sure to stretch thoroughly after lifting.

Ready to work out? Let's go. Click the pictures for larger views.


Hamstrings - Thigh Biceps Curl with Ankle Weights

Lie face down on bench (two chairs will work too) with ankle/wrist  weights around your ankle as shown.

Hold front of bench or chairs for support. Extend your legs and curl them slowly up to the vertical position as shown.

Return to starting position. Inhale up, exhale down.

Persons not in very good condition and beginners with weak hamstrings should start with a light weight (2 pounds or less) and a small number of repetitions (3-5 reps). When this exercise becomes easy, you can do it with progressively heavier weights. Be careful, though, because If you use too heavy a weight, you'll have a high risk of injury.

Quads - Thigh Extension with Ankle Weights (Lower Thighs)

Sit on the bench (chair) with ankle/wrist weights around your ankle as shown. Knees are bent and feet on the floor (or close to floor).

Have seat against back of knees. Hold seat behind buttocks. Raise weight slowly up until legs are parallel to floor.

Return to starting position. Inhale up, exhale down.

When determining how many repetitions you will do for your hams and quads, be aware that running often strengthens hams more than quads. Thus you should exercise your quads a little bit harder than your hams, up to 50% more repetitions.

Rib Cage and Pectorals - Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover

Lie on a flat bench ( two chairs will work too)  with your head extending over the end and your feet flat on floor, straddling the bench.

Hold a dumbbell at arm's length above your chest. Your hands should be flat against the inside plate of the dumbbell.

Keep your elbows locked and lower the dumbbell in a semicircular motion behind your head as far as possible without causing pain. Return the dumbbell to the starting position. Breathe deeply, keeping your head down and your chest high.

Deltoids - Dumbbell Upright Row

Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm's length and resting against your upper thighs. Keep the dumbbells about 10 inches (25 cm) apart and your thumbs facing each other. Pull the 'bells straight up until they're nearly even with your chin.

Keep your elbows out. At the top position the dumbbells should be level with your ears. Keep the 'bells close to your body, and pause at the top. Concentrate on keeping tension on your shoulders as you lower the weights.

Pectorals - Dumbbell Chest Fly

Sit in an upright position on a bench ( two chairs will work well) with a dumbbell in each hand.

Lie on your back and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders. Press the dumbbells up directly above the chest with the dumbbells almost touching and palms facing each other (neutral grip). Keeping the elbows slightly bent, lower the dumbbells out and away from each other in an arcing motion with hands aligned with the nipple-line.

Let your upper arm go parallel to slightly past parallel to the ground before returning to the starting position.

Keep both feet flat on the bench at all times and keep the lower back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or arching of the back may cause injury. Do not lock your elbows.

Dumbbell Chest Press

You can substitute the Dumbbell Chest Press for the Dumbbell Chest Fly, or you can do it and the Dumbbell Chest Fly.

Lie on your back and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders. Press the dumbbells up directly above the chest with palms facing forward. Lower the dumbbells keeping your forearms perpendicular to the floor and your hands aligned at the nipple line.

Let your upper arms go slightly past parallel to the floor and press the dumbbells up to the starting position.

Keep both feet flat on the bench at all times and keep the lower back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or arching of the back may cause injury. Do not lock your elbows

Obliques - Dumbbell Side Bend

Stand erect, feet  about 16 inches (40 cm) apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palms in.

Place left hand on waist. You should keep your back straight. Easily bend to right  as far as you can, then bend to left as far as possible. Change weight to left hand and repeat movement. Bend at waist only, not at hips or knees. Inhale to right, exhale to left.

Upper Back and Lats - Two-Arm Dumbbell Rowing

Put feet close together or about about 10 inches (25 cm) apart. Place dumbbell outside of each foot.

Bend forward and grasp dumbbells. Keep knees slightly bent, torso parallel to floor.

Pull dumbbells straight up to sides of chest, like rowing.  Inhale up, exhale down.

Do not let dumbbells touch floor during exercise.  Keep head up, back straight.

Biceps - Standing Alternated Dumbbell Curl

Hold dumbbells. Stand erect, feet about about 16 inches (40 cm) apart. Keep back straight, head up, hips and legs locked.

Start with dumbbells at arms' length, palms in. Curl dumbbell in right hand with palm in until pat thigh, then palm up for remainder of curl to shoulder height. You can do a half of motion range as well. Keep palm up while lowering until past thigh, then turn palm in.

Keep upper arm close to side. Do a repetition with right arm, then curl left arm.

Inhale up, exhale down. Can also be done seated on the bench or chair.

Triceps - Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl

Hold dumbbell with both hands, raise overhead to arms' length. Stand erect, head up, feet about about 16 inches (40 cm) apart. Rotate hands while raising dumbbell so top plates of dumbbell rest in palms, thumbs around handle. Keep upper arms close to head. Lower dumbbell in semicircular motion behind head until forearms touch biceps. Return to starting position. Inhale down, exhale up.

Lower Back - Prone Back Extension

Lie face down on floor with hands down at sides. You may place a rolled under forehead to clear face from floor.

Raise chest and head off floor keeping feet in contact with floor. Return to starting position.

To increase resistance, extend arms and place hands overhead. Do not raise head past 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) — excessive hyperextension may cause injury. To vary exercise raise feet while raising trunk.

Abdominal - Abdominal Crunch

Lie back onto floor with knees bent and hands behind head; keep elbows back and out of sight. Head should be in a neutral position with a space between chin and chest. Leading with the chin and chest toward the ceiling, contract the abdominals and raise shoulders off floor or bench. Return to starting position. Keep head and back in a neutral position—hyperextension or flexion of either may cause injury.

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The information in this site and in my podcasts is for informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical or physical therapy advice. For medical advice, consult a physician. For physical therapy advice, consult a physical therapist.

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The information in this site and in my podcasts is for informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical or physical therapy advice. For medical advice, consult a physician. For physical therapy advice, consult a physical therapist.

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