Weight-training can prevent running injuries

More and more amateur athletes are discovering the benefits of sport-specific strength training  Credit: Nathan Bilow/Allsport
Something extraordinary happened when a girls' high school cross-country team began a weight-lifting program directed by YMCA strength-conditioning consultant Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. The girls won the New England Cross Country Championships four years in a row — injury-free.

True, those girls may simply have been good runners — weight lifting or no weight lifting. Various studies, however, point to strength training as a major part of the team's success.

One review found that weight lifting boosted running performance by 10 to 13 percent. Another found stronger muscles boosted running economy. Westcott's own observations show that a weight-lifting program may prevent injuries.

What's more, stronger upper-body muscles help you hammer out the last mile or two of a race once you've fatigued your legs. Stronger arm and leg muscles give you more power for running uphill. And strong muscles provide better shock absorption, Westcott says.

Best of all, strength training doesn't have to take up much of your time. According to Westcott's studies, doing one set for each major muscle group just twice a week will bring significant results. Each set should include eight to 12 slow, controlled repetitions. Once you can handle 12 reps easily, increase the weight by 5 pounds.

Westcott recommends the following routine for runners. It will get you in and out of the gym within 15 minutes:

1. Bench press or pushups for chest, shoulders and triceps.

2. Leg extensions for quadriceps.

3. Bent-over or seated rows for upper back, biceps and rear shoulders.

4. Leg curls for hamstrings.

5. Overhead press or lateral raises for neck and shoulders.

6. Leg press for hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.

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