Skip to Content

Why Runners Lift Weights and Weightlifters Run

why runners lift weights and weightlifters run

Running and weightlifting might appear to be on completely different sides of the sports spectrum. But that doesn’t mean they can’t form a symbiotic relationship. 

In fact, an increasing number of athletes are discovering the performance potential in this unique partnership. Runners who lift and weight lifters who run can improve their all-round performance—if the balance is right. Together, these two very different exercise disciplines can make you a much more rounded and effective athlete

So, why exactly do runners lift weights and weightlifters run? Well, there’s an abundance of reasons. Below, we’ll look at each one of them. 

runner who lifts weights

How Running Improves Weightlifting 

If you’re a weightlifter or bodybuilder, you may have shied away from running in the past. Some people believe that running impedes muscle growth, which can be the case in certain circumstances. 

However, that usually only happens when you run more than you weightlift. Adding running to your strength training routine once or twice a week isn’t going to reduce your muscle mass. In fact, it can help you increase it over time. Here’s how:

1. Builds cardiovascular capacity 

Cardiovascular efficiency is extremely important for safe weight lifting and strength training. The easier it is for your blood to circulate throughout the body and provide each of your muscles with enough oxygen, the easier it will be to build muscles that last. 

Running is one of the most effective physical tools for improving cardiovascular function. It reduces the risk of heart disease, regulates blood pressure during extreme lifts, and allows the heart to perform its job with more ease, resulting in more energy and less fatigue. 

By incorporating running into your strength training regime, you can set yourself up for a much stronger all-around performance. 

2. Increases endurance 

Weight lifting may not technically be an endurance sport, but it certainly requires a high level of grit and physical stamina. Using a lower-intensity sports practice like running to calibrate your endurance capacity can lead to some very effective weight lifting results. 

Running increases your lung capacity and reduces the amount of lactic acid that builds up inside your body, allowing for more sustainable and effective training. It also supports the efficient, even distribution of energy that is needed to get through a weightlifting session. 

3. Improves your muscle-building potential 

Frequent long-distance runs have been known to slow down muscle growth, but infrequent short-distance runs do the opposite. What you’re essentially doing when you combine short-distance runs into your strength training routine is combining it with cardio, which helps build muscle mass. 

With higher intensity runs, growth hormones can flow more consistently to your muscles, improving their strength, size, and potential for growth. It also helps lose unwanted body fat which may be preventing you from seeing that growth. 

4. Promotes better sleep recovery  

Recovery of all kinds is really important for a healthy weight lifting routine. Running tires you out in a way that helps your muscles rest on a deeper level, allowing them to perform even better the next day. 

If you commit to a very active weight lifting routine, utilizing a form of cardio such as running can play a major role in effective recovery. During sleep, your body works hard to restore hormone levels (such as testosterone and HGH), promoting faster muscle recovery.

Sleep tends to be a much-overlooked component of a healthy strength training regime. But in reality, proper sleep is crucial for high physical performance, especially in the bodybuilding zone. 

weight lifting for runners

How Weightlifting Improves Running 

Now, runners. Strength training is often ignored in favor of getting more miles under your belt. This is understandable if running is where your true passion lies. 

However, there are plenty of good reasons to spend some of your time working on high-intensity resistance training. 

Full body workouts that focus on different parts of the body can seriously amplify your running game. Splitting workouts into arm and leg work, hinges, carries, and push-pull movements ensure that every muscle group is targeted evenly to build overall strength. 

Here are some more reasons to give it a try: 

1. Reduces the risk of muscle injury

Each step that you take while running, a force of approximately three times your body weight is applied to your leg. Being able to develop the kind of strength that supports absorbing that weight is essential for mitigating injuries, which are all too common without proper resistance training. 

Weight lifting can help strengthen your muscles in a way that prevents avoidable injuries from occurring and helps you move with greater ease, lightness, and stability. It can also help improve your recovery time during periods of knee pain that come as a result of excessive running. 

2. Boosts biometrics 

The term “biometrics” refers to the way in which your body produces movement. Strong biometrics results in a more even and efficient distribution of energy, allowing you to approach running with a much higher level of energy and physical power. 

Back in 2018, researchers found that distance runners saw an increase of 8% running efficiency with athletes who engaged in regular weight training exercises. 

Weightlifting is a great method for boosting your biometrics. incorporating resistance and additional weight into your performance-building regime will help you improve your movement patterns and make you a faster, more potent runner. 

3. Prevents age-related decline in athletic performance 

Some of the best runners in the world are over the age of sixty, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still susceptible to age-related reduced muscle mass disorders such as sarcopenia. As we age, it becomes harder for muscles to maintain both mass and strength. But weightlifting can change that. 

Older runners who are aiming to prevent the onset of muscular degeneration can significantly boost their strength by engaging in regular weight lifting exercises. It also supports increased mobility, muscle mass maintenance, and overall functional capacity. 

Running And Weightlifting Are A Winning Combination

Whether you’re a runner or a lifter, it might be time to take a page out of the other’s book. With the right balance of strength and endurance, any form of exercise you pursue can act as an enhancer and improve your overall performance.

Tyler Tafelsky Gravel Cyclist
Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler