Hi there,
So my quandary is, I'd quite like to do some upper body strength work (hey doesn't want a few more muscles) but I'm a little worried about putting on too much extra weight and I'm wondering if it'll have a negative effect on my running.
Does anyone have any experience here/

p.s. congrats to those who did the GNR!


  • Try a full body workout with higher reps eg one exercise per body part 2/3x15.

    I wouldn't worry too much about bulking up.Putting on just a couple of pounds of muscle requires a lot of hard work.

    A bodybuilder would be very lucky to increase lean body mass by 7 or 8 pounds in a year(even with 'supplementation').

    You will however find that what you will gain is an increase in strength and tone.

    Try to work ALL body parts not just the upper body and avoid lifting just before running.You could start with a few weeks of body weight circuits before moving onto training with added resistance.
  • I am far from an expert but most people I talk to recommend lower repetitions of higher weight doing for gaining strength. So something like 2/3 sets of maybe half a dozen doing things like squats, bench press, pull/chin ups etc. I use a book written by a guy called Pavel something - he is quite popular in the martial arts community for weight training advice - and the argument is that high reps are more or less a waste of time. He also argues that you should not train to absolute failure. It's quite an interesting book although it does look gimmicky - it is written for the american market.

    That sort of contradicts Danny but I am no expert so I could easily be wrong, like most things if you look for it you will find an expert to agree with whatever you want, it works for me though. I'm with Danny on the bulking up question though - it depends on your body type but I started weights and running at about the same time and have lost around three quarters of a stone. Bodybuilders have a saying why run when you can walk, why walk when you can sit, and if you are sitting down anyway you may as well have a nap. If you are running several times a week then you are not going to bulk up and if you do then take up body building because you must have a natural talent!

    What I would say is go for free weights over machines and try and avoid isolating individual muscles when you can train several together - so things like squats, pull ups or bench press are good. Also avoid really going too heavy without good form or you will get hurt.
  • Thanks for the tips guys!
  • I agree with Popsider that low rep/high weights is the best way to train for optimum strength.

    However starting out on a course of training with a high percentage of your maximum lifts could easily cause injury.

    When undertaking weight training for the first time(or after a lay off)it is far safer to start with a low weight/higher rep programme.This ensures that not only do you lessen the load on muscles,joints etc but you also learn correct lifting form.

    Even by using moderate weights,strength gains will be made.Reps can be lowered and loads increased over a period of time.It all depends on what your objective is.

    A sprinter for example may be using training poundages that could well stand up in a local weightlifting competition.They are training for explosive power and thus utilise olympic/power lifting exercises at a high percentage of one rep maximum.Having said that,they will not train all year round using those sort of weights but usually taper down from a higher number of reps using lower reps/higher weights to hold on to strength gains.

    It is not usual for distance runners to use this type of training,many coaches infact advocate body-weight resistance only.

    I have found that set/rep/weight combinations of the following are generally advised;

    3 x 12-20 reps low-moderate weights for general conditioning.

    3 to 5 x 8-12 reps higher weights for increasing muscle mass.

    5(or more) x 1-6 reps for maximum srength gains.

  • Agree with all that, especially the injury bit, we are mostly worried about leg injuries in running but weights bring a bigger danger of hurting your back and that can easily mean big trouble. I must admit I am ultra cautious with weights and I tend not to follow my own advice about high weight low reps with things which might pose a risk to the back.

    If anyone has no access to weights then body weight programmes can be made pretty tough - one legged squats, pull ups, different sorts of press ups, dips etc etc. Someone said to me once that your muscles don't differentiate between body weight and a metal weight - if you can only do 6 reps of a body weight exercise that is equivalent to lifting a weight that you can do 6 reps of etc
  • From a distance runners point of view,If you can't manage 50 free standing squats or 20 press ups,then whats the point of doing weighted squats or bench presses?

    If free exercises become too easy then you can make things more difficult by for example,elevating the feet during press ups or using single leg squats(hold onto something or you fall over :-)

    I didn't mean to jump too heavily on your earlier point Popsider.It is just having spent many years of my youth training in gyms, I have seen people literally carried out on more than one occasion after piling too much weight on the bar.

    I also would say that heavy squats are a big no no.It is much easier on the legs to employ exercises such as leg presses,leg extensions and hamstring curls.It is important to train both the quads and hamstrings,as neglecting one in favour of the other can lead to running injuries.

    I must agree with you on the subject of free weights v machines.Whilst it is not always possible to use free weights(as with the above leg exercises)you should try to use them.

    A machine allows you to move the weight in a pre-determined line.This line may not be one which works the muscle group through a full range of motion.You may also without even knowing it be pushing harder with one arm/leg,this can cause an imbalance.This may not be too important for general conditioning but can cause problems for runners.

    I would suggest wherever possible,that dumbells by used for the upper body and single leg exercises for the lower.
  • Just to clear up what I said about the squats.

    I suppose that light weights performed with PERFECT form would be ok.

    I used too squat with very heavy weights on a regular basis but now find myself a number of years later to have discs like deflated whoopee cushions(the consultants words not mine).
  • Thanks for all your info guys. Most helpfull. So are you saying that if I were to do a bunch of pressups, pullups etc 3 or so times a week, utilising my available sofas to raise my feet for situps, and trees etc for pull ups, that would do me as much good as stumping up all the pounds for a gym...?
    Also Danny do you mean that dumbells are better than bar and weights for bench press type exercises?

    Thanks for all your help, this is the one area I really have no experience in (except for pain) :o)

    Andy (hoping he had more money for the pub :o) )
  • No I agree with you Danny. I do weighted squats but I keep it relatively light - see above that i agree with you on one leg squats and other body weight exercises that can be as tough as using weights. I was in hospital the other day and talking to a guy who has just had a disc removed from his spine - the physio I spoke to thought that weight training may have contributed to the damage - who knows but not worth the risk. That said if you really want to train for strength seriously and are willing to accept the risks I do think squats are an excellent exercise !!

    As Andy was talking about upper body I would definitely say that dips and chin/pull ups are good exercises, and safe. Bench press is also relatively easy to do safely - although you might want a spotter a lot of people don't bother.
  • Andy,
    all the upper body exercises you mention are good and will improve both strength/endurance and muscle tone.

    If initially you find dips too hard,then try rear bench dips.Support yourself on a bench with your hands behind you and lower yourself down.Start with the feet on the floor.If after a period of time these become too easy,support your legs in an elevated position eg on a chair or bench.

    Also if you find that you cant do many pull ups,try doing as many as you can then by standing on a box or chair just attempt to lower yourself under control for a few more reps.

    A pair of lightish dumbells are good for home use.They can provide a good workout especially in the shoulder and triceps areas.They are also easier to store and I find that I am more likely to use them as I dont have to get out and put away loads of weights ,bars etc.

    The abdominal area is of particular importance to runners and a number of exercises should be included.The Swiss ball idea seems to make sense although I have yet to give it a go.
  • This is an interesting discussion. Is there anything that can be done at home to strengthen the hamstrings?
  • Lots of good info, thanks.
  • Forrest,
    There is a way of doing hamstring curls but this involves a partner.

    What you do is lie on your front with a cushion under your knees.Your partner applies constant resistance by use of a towel wrapped around your ankles.You then do normal hamstring curls with your partner pulling back on the towel(not too much however).

    It is very difficult to describe exercises without using a picture.If you are not careful it ends up looking like a kinky sex game :-)
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