Should Masters Runners Lift Weights?

I had a great discussion with Dr. Richard Hansen the other night (over a fantastic meal by the way) and we were talking about the differences between high school athletes getting injured and masters runners getting injured.  Richey coaches high school athletes, but in his clinic he sees many serious masters runners.  The key point he made was that the masters runner could really benefit from work that changes their hormonal profile.  They need to up-regulate human growth hormone, testosterone to stay healthy.  But it’s a really hard sell because this group truly loves to run.  And they understand going out for an easy run on Monday, workout on Tuesday, easy runs on Wednesday and Thursday, workout Friday, easy run or day off on Saturday, then a long run on Sunday.  They’ve done that for years.  They’ve found a way to make that running schedule work alongside their family life and social life.

So back to the question, “Should Masters Runners Lift Weights?”  Not right away as they need to do some Active Isolate Flexibility (AIF) and General Strength and Mobility (GSM) work first.  That’s foundational work that is the precursor to weight room work.  Algebra before Pre-Calculus, Pre-Calculus before Calculus.

If you find a good coach, you can spend a year or two at the track doing good strength work before you need to go into the weight room.  For example, you can spend 95 seconds and get a great kettlebell workout.  But eventually the weight room can be a very important place for the masters runner, so they should go there and make the most of their time.  In and out in 45 minutes is my rule.  It’s easy to end up in the room over an hour, but you’re probably just talking to your buddies.

The weight room is not the first place the masters runner wants to go – a dirt trail or a quite county road are the places that first call – but some solid AIF and GSM work is needed if the masters runner wants to stay healthy and keep running.

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  • Mike Blackmore

    I knocked out a 15 minute med ball workout while traveling this weekend. Luckily, the hotel had everything I needed. Med ball, stability ball and a few hand weights.

  • Paul Ford

    Nice work, CJJ. The “should”, “ought”, “must”, “have to” and “need to” are loaded questions. “Could”, “may”, “like to” masters runners lifts weights gives a different focus.

    Weight training (BB, DB, KB, SB, pulleys, pin-loaded) are forms of strength-training. There are a number of benefits that masters runners can/could get from strength-training.

    Firstly, it can help with balancing lifestyle, postural and activity (running) demands that can lead to injury with increasing load and/or faulty mechanics. Preventing injury or reducing the time lost from injuries can indirectly improve running performance by improving run training regularity and consistency.

    Secondly, strength training can improve a (master’s) runners anabolic hormonal profile: aiding recovery, reducing (fast-twitch) muscle loss, reducing the likelihood of tendon strength loss, and assisting immune system health.

    Thirdly, as mentioned, strength-training can aid in reducing muscle loss (or, even, add muscle), which can aid the maintenance of speed and tempo based training…important for running success.

    Similarly, some forms of strength-training may improve the neural drive to the trained muscle groups – aiding muscle function and/or the ability to produce and absorb higher forces (for longer).

    Next, strength training can be an adjunct to masters training by adding variety, flexibility and a supplementary source in inclimate weather.

    Strength training – of which “weights” is one form – CAN be used by us master runners (I’m 48, been running 32 years and have ST/WT as core elements of my program) for various indirect and direct benefits.

    These benefits, however, depend upon individual runners circumstances, their history, their experience and confidence, ability to change/be flexible, time and resource availability, mechanical/technical, health and injury profile.

    Various exercises, loads and forms of strength training CAN be used at different times, in different phases, for different outcomes for different masters runners.

    That is different to saying they “should” do them.

    Paul Ford (

  • Mitch Figas

    46 year old recovering from hip labral repair/femoral head modification. 27:45 for 8k, 2:45 marathon, 4:58 mile prior to surgery. PT humbled me. Never realized how weak I was. Will continue in weight room as recovery permits.

  • Neal

    I like what have been reading and have been planning on progressing to the weight room. Where I struggle is the “when?” The general strength exercises are easy, right after a work out, 10-15minutes. But 45 minutes 2-3 times a week, should I do those on easy days or hard days, before or after the run?

  • CoachJay

    Michael Black posted this on facebook

    I am a 5k runner. 48 years of age. Been lifting now for over a year and a half. I am specifically doing Olympic lifting.

    Started out unable to squat body weight of 150 lbs and now have a pr in front squat( full squat- butt to calves) of 102.5 Kilo or 225 lbs and 100k for back that is 1.5 times body weight.

    My concern starting was acquiring unwanted mass. This has just not happened.

    This is what I have found. My speed has improved like nothing else. I am faster now as a 48 year old then I was in my 20s. Just ran easy 6 seconds 50 meters. This is something I could never have done.

    My posture and bio mechanics have significantly improved, having a more erect posture and a more glute dominant stride.

    Now as far as aerobic capacity, I have not found this mode of training to make a dent in that. This is specific to the type work done and getting stronger has not made a difference to my VO2 or Lactate balance point or lactate endurance, but others may find different.

    My routine consists of 3 visits to the gym with a Olympic Wt coach and sometimes add days other than that, but typically 3 days per week. Routine includes squats( Front- back), squat and power cleans/ snatches as well as other components specific to the snatch and clean and jerk. e.g. press work, pulls( dead lifts), cleans from the hang or off blocks, etc.

    Beside technique,that involves low weight, my major strength lift( the squat) are low rep, usually now start with 60K for 5 followed by progressions of 3-70, 2-80, 1-85 and up.

    Reps won’t get me strong, but working at or above 80 percent of 1 rep max will. I was stuck until I learned that heavy weights require neurological requirement that can only come by testing my max. Failure is part of the process, but not a routine.

    Have found it best to have de- load weeks, in that I might continue to squat with 60- 70 percent easy weights. Sometimes a week total break has been great for my motivation and strength.

    All in all, I see major benefits from the work I have done. I feel good doing it and have learned to apply the mental aspects of weightlifting to running, that is a great asset.

    Again, weights haven’t made me aerobically superior, but I now have the framework, the core strength and enhanced movement abilities to develop this specifically by the work I know generally works, e.g. threshold and above+ endurance.

  • CoachJay

    Hard days Hard, Easy days Easy is a mantra you should have. So if you have two workouts a week and one long run then you simply do your 30 minutes of GSM (45 may be too much for now) after those workouts. You get the hormonal stimulus of the weight work after you’ve done the running…so you did a catabolic activity that is followed by an anabolic activity.

  • CoachJay

    Here is the podcast with the intrepid Mr. Blackmore –

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