Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Why All Athletes Should Lift Weights


Different sports, but all hit the iron. Marathon, mountain running, track and field, weightlifting.

All athletes should participate in a well planned strength program. While practicing one's sport (or sports) will have the biggest impact on your athletic skills development, supplementing sports practice with a regular lifting program has been shown to:

  1. Improve performance
  2. Increase training capacity
  3. Decrease the risk of injury
There is a misconception that in order to get stronger you have to build bigger muscles and gain weight. While many athletes may benefit from gaining muscular bodyweight for their particular sport, weight class sports and endurance sports do not generally want to carry extra bodyweight. A properly designed program will help athletes get stronger and more explosive by teaching them how to recruit their existing muscles more efficiently and faster, even when weight gain is not the goal. 

Discus American Record Holder, Valerie Allman: 230' 2" (70.15 meters) 

Novice and Masters endurance athletes should lift for the same reason: high mileage is neither a safe nor effective way to improve performance for these two groups of athletes. Beginners don't have the years of conditioning to tolerate high mileage without breaking down and the over 35 crowd don't have the recovery abilities of their peak years. Enter lifting weights, which provides many of the neuromuscular benefits that contribute to improved running form and efficiency without the pounding and increased risk of overuse injury posed by high mileage. Lifting teaches your body how to use the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers in a coordinated and efficient fashion which carries over to your sport practice.


Three time Colorado State Champion and now University of Washington mid distance phenom Marlena Preigh lifted twice a week in and out of season all through her high school career.


Strength training imparts additional benefits besides muscular strength: bone density, tendon, ligament and cartilage all improve from properly implemented and consistent lifting regimen. Endurance bicyclists and swimmers especially should do resistance training if only for bone density reasons. 


Blagrove, R.C., Howe, L. P., Cushion, E. J., Spence A., Howatson, G., Pedlar, C. R., & Hayes, P. R. (2018). Effects of Strength Training on Postpubertal Adolescent Distance Runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50(6). https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2018/06000/Effects_of_Strength_Training_on_Postpubertal.13.aspx


Swimming and cycling do not cause positive effects on bone mineral density: A systematic review. (2016). Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition), 56(4), 345–351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rbre.2016.02.013


Johnson, R. E., Quinn, T. J., Kertzer, R., & Vroman, N. B. (1997). Strength Training in Female Distance Runners: Impact on Running Economy. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11(4), 224–229. https://doi.org/10.1519/00124278-199711000-00004


Nichols, J. F., Palmer, J. E., & Levy, S. S. (2003). Low bone mineral density in highly trained male master cyclists.               Osteoporosis International, 14(8), 644–649. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00198-003-1418-z

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