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Jeff Horowitz takes a look at some of the misconceptions in regards to strength training.
In his new book Quick Strength for Runners, running coach and personal trainer Jeff Horowitz shows that just a little strength training can go a long way toward making runners stronger, faster, and more resistant to injury. In his 8-week program, runners spend less than an hour a week performing simple exercises that build a well-balanced, strong body for running.
Despite its benefits, some runners are reluctant to begin strength training because they believe it will cause them to bulk up with unwanted muscle mass that will make it harder to run. Horowitz busts the six most common myths about strength training for runners.
Myth: Strength training will make me bigger, and I do not want to be bigger
Strength training can enlarge your muscles — known as “hypertrophy” — but that is not an inevitable outcome of strength training. Think of doing strength training as using a tool: It will do what you ask of it. If you ask it to build muscle mass, it will do so. But if instead you ask it to build only lean muscle without adding mass, it will do that instead. The key is in how you strength train.
Generally speaking, if you work against greater resistance for fewer repetitions of an exercise, you will encourage hypertrophy. Conversely, if you keep resistance moderate and perform a high number of repetitions of each exercise, you will improve strength and muscle endurance without experiencing a significant improvement in muscle size. The choice is yours.
The strength training plan presented here is not focused on building muscle mass. In these pages, you will not find such bodybuilding staples as heavy bench presses or dumbbell rows. In fact, you could have an entire strength training session without picking up a single weight.
Keep in mind, too, that you are naturally limited by your genetics and body type. If you are a lean runner who has always had difficulty gaining weight, you might not be able to put on much muscle mass even if you wanted to. The odds of you getting bulky accidentally while following a runner’s strength training plan are very low.
But what if you tend to put on weight easily? Should you avoid strength training altogether? Certainly not. That would be like throwing away the baby with the bathwater. The smarter approach is to structure your strength workouts to emphasize high-repetition exercises.
As an added benefit, the research increasingly shows that relatively low-resistance strength training — the kind we are going to be talking about here — can lead to significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness. That means targeted strength training can help improve your form and your endurance.