Is Strength Training Beneficial for Distance Running?

Ernesto Luciano-Perez, MD, of Virginia Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists

Ernesto Luciano-Perez, MD, Medical Director of Bon Secours Sports Medicine

There has been a lot of interest in strength training, or “core” strengthening in the recent past. Abdominal and trunk stabilization exercises are now used routinely in a growing number of fitness programs.

The question arises then, will a stronger core help you run a faster marathon?

The answer? Not likely.

Distance running is limited by the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles. In the distance runner, the goal is to increase the supply of oxygen to working muscles. Strength training doesn’t facilitate an increase in the oxygen delivery from the lungs to the muscles. Only an efficient cardiovascular system can improve such delivery. The better the stoke volume (volume of blood per heart beat) and cardiac output (volume of pumped blood per minutes), the better the oxygen supply to the muscles.

However, strength training can be beneficial to improve an athlete’s endurance, mainly in the previously untrained individual, by increasing their overall fitness level.

The experienced, highly trained runner will not likely benefit from traditional strength training, but would be better served by spending their training actually running, therefore, improving their cardiovascular conditioning and endurance.

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Dr. Ernesto Luciano-Perez is a Hampton Roads physician who specializes in Sports Medicine, Arthroscopic Surgery and General Orthopaedics. He received his board certification as an orthopaedic surgeon in 1993 from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Luciano-Perez’s affiliations and memberships include Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, Arthroscopy Association of North America, American Medical Association, Virginia Orthopaedic Society and Southern Orthopaedic Association.

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