How to Increase Race Pace: Weight Training

How to increase race pace - weight training | 8 of 26 Marathon Series

Last updated on October 4th, 2023 at 05:10 pm

So if you’ve been reading our Marathon Series, then you’ll know exactly how effective sprint training, hill running and crosstraining are for increasing your race pace. The final piece in the jigsaw is weight training.

When you say weight training to many runners their first reaction is that of confusion followed by, “But I don’t want to get big and heavy”. But the great thing about weight training is the overall benefit to the body’s fitness. Through weight lifting exercise you can improve your overall muscular strength and cardiovascular efficiency. If you’re looking to get as bulky as Arnold Schwarzenegger this blog is not for you. Instead, we’ll be discussing specific weight exercises that will power you across the finish line.

So Why Weight-Training?

When you run, the load on your muscles is limited by your pace, body weight, surface conditions, and incline; so if you are already using training variables such as sprinting, hill running, and running on varied surfaces then you are not going to be exerting any greater load on your muscles.

Weight training effectively allows you to increase the load on the muscles as much as you can possibly handle. You can use a variety of weight training techniques for maximum training effect.

The second reason is the powerful effect on improving your cardiovascular efficiency, when you force the muscles to exert more force as opposed to just more repetition, then you increase mitochondrial density (the muscle cell power stations). Without boring you with too much science, this basically means you burn more calories and can use oxygen more effectively when exercising. It also means the heart gets stronger as blood gets forced back to it quicker when lifting weights.


Finally, the third reason why weight training helps is that it improves core strength; which in turn will stabilise your whole body when running and therefore you’ll be able to generate more kick for those fast sessions.

weight lifting

How To Weight-Train For Running

Follow these 8 simple tips for the maximum benefit from weight training, to get you running faster (and harder) than before:

  • Start slowly, and always warm up with at least 5 minutes of cardio. Overdoing it can cause a lot of pain and in extreme cases you can get rhabdomyolysis, where you basically liquidise your own muscle cells and your kidneys will suffer; as well as not being able to move comfortably for days!
  • Even if running is your only sport, then still train all muscle groups, if you only train your legs then you won’t improve your overall strength and core strength and you will create muscular imbalances that can reduce your overall biomechanical efficiency.
  • Aim to blend weight-training with a cardiovascular element such as running, rowing or cycling; this will improve the overall effect of the training and will also help to ensure you don’t bulk up too much. This can be in the simple format of 10 minutes cardio between each weighted exercise or more advanced such as in weighted HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
  • Aim for a weight that allows you to just manage 14 repetitions of each exercise for 3-5 sets, with no more than 1 minute rest between each set of 14; this ensures you are working your cardiovascular and recovery systems well and will not be increasing muscle mass. Too heavy and you’ll reduce the reps which means you’re working on strength and size, too light and you’ll reduce the training benefit.
  • Spend your first session establishing the weight you’ll be lifting for each exercise that will mean you fatigue at the 14 rep point as well as the exercises you’ll be doing.
  • Split your weight training sessions into two session types such as A and B. Session A could be arms, legs and Abs; whilst Session B could be shoulders, back and chest. Every month or so mix up these sessions so that you are constantly keeping your body guessing and not falling into a rut.
  • Change the exercises you do for each muscle group every month or so, again to maximise the adaptation of the body and therefore the training effect.
  • Recover from your sessions with a protein recovery food and drink such as the SIS Rego rapid recovery or Sis Rego Bars and increase your protein intake slightly (10-20 extra grams per kg of body weight per day) to help the body improve its adaptation to weight training.

Again remember to enjoy yourself and think about the end goal of improving your speed; if you are struggling with any of these training methods then get in touch with a personal trainer or speak to the staff at your local gym for more detailed training plans. Alternatively, the friendly team at Alexandra Sports is always there for more advice and support at 023 9269 8285.

Here is the next blog article in the marathon series:

9. Increase Race Pace With Tee-Total Training

How to increase race pace: tee-total training | 9 of 26 Marathon Series
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