I've primarily been a long distance runner, but I have recently started incorporating swimming and upper body exercises into my weekly exercise program.

My latest addition is compound exercises like squat and dead lift. After a one hour proper introduction with a personal trainer, I was surprised to find I got really sore muscles the following day.

I realize these exercises affect my muscles differently than running does, but that got me to thinking: What's the long term effect of combining squats and dead lifts with long distance running? Is it mutually beneficial, a hindrance, or, perhaps, no significant mutual effect?

To clarify, I'm not taking up squat and dead lift to improve my running. I'm merely looking to see if there are any arguments for or against combining long distance running with squat and dead lift in my weekly exercise routine.

  • How many times per week do you run? Any reason you would pick 'weightlifting' over doing more or longer runs, other than some diversity? – Ivo Flipse Apr 6 '11 at 10:29
  • I run three times a week. I added swimming and weight exercises for diversity. – user240 Apr 6 '11 at 12:12
  • People who say any strength based leg workout, such as squat or deadlift, will improve running are wrong. I've experimented plenty and heavy lifting destroys the efficiency trained muscle and converts in into a non efficient burst strength muscle. – Ian Aug 8 at 12:41
  • @Ian - Your answer was converted to a comment, as there wasn't really any evidence other than what you think. If you have studies or other material to back your assertions, I would add those and repost. I would also invite you to take the tour and read the help section to find out more about how we work. Welcome to the site! – JohnP Aug 9 at 14:14
up vote 10 down vote accepted

This all depends on how you are performing the exercises (how much weight, how many reps, how much rest between sets, how much rest between sessions...). Based on your comments, my answer is no, they are not going to negatively affect your running.

If you were executing those exercises to train max strength or power (eg. higher weight, low-mid reps, moderate to full recovery) they are only going to have marginally positive affects on your distance running ability but that could be offset by adding more muscle weight that will make you a less efficient runner.

Doing them with less intensity (lower weight, higher reps) and less recovery will be more beneficial to your running by improving the strength and strength endurance of your legs and your core.

On another note swimming isn't the most efficient way to improve your running endurance. It helps improve cardiovascular endurance, but it does not train the strength or aerobic capacity of the muscles that are used in running.

Ultimately your training plan is going to depend on your goals. If you are training to be a competitive distance runner this is not the most efficient approach. If your goal is overall fitness then this may work for you.

  • 1
    I think your answer is really good, but can you explain this sentence a little more: "Doing even more aerobic exercises like static squats will pay higher event specific dividends for endurance athlete." I've always thought of isometric exercise as anaerobic, and static squats only strengthen the muscles at one specific joint angle, so to me they don't seem applicable to running. – Barbie Apr 6 '11 at 17:03
  • I'm not doing squats and dead lift to improve my running, but rather to diversify my exercise routine. I was mostly curious to see if squat and dead lift could have a significant negative impact on running. In addition to squat and dead lift I also do barbell rows, lat pull, bench press and military press on the days where I train with weights. For now, I am aiming for overall fitness, so I plan to stick with lower weight, higher reps, less recovery. – user240 Apr 6 '11 at 17:32
  • @Barbie: Sorry, I mispoke. Instead of "Aerobic" I should have said "endurance focused". Depending on how they are performed isometric exercises can stress the Anaerobic Lactic or Aerobic pathways but as you point out they usually operate in the former. Static squats are a good way to target recruitment of slow twitch muscle fibers and stress them for prolonged periods which improves their aerobic capacity and lactic threshold... – matt Apr 6 '11 at 17:49
  • ...You do don't get the mobility benefits of dynamic exercises but the the low impact low intensity of the exercise makes it a good way to incorporate strength and strength endurance training into active recovery, or cool down activities. Ultimately I took that sentence out of the answer instead of repair it because it is only relevant in certain circumstances. I think the important part to focus on is the intensity of the exercises he is choosing. – matt Apr 6 '11 at 17:52
  • @Kim Burgaard: in that case the answer is no, they are not going to negatively affect your running. It is all relative. If you were an elite distance runner and doing power squats and dead lifts it would likely have a devastating effect on your running, however as you describe your intended goals and method of exercising, they will likely improve your overall fitness which will likely improve your running performance. – matt Apr 6 '11 at 17:56

Journal article on effect of addition of 4x 4 rep max half squat sets 3 days a week on distance running performance and economy (2008) http://bit.ly/qVK6Z2

"Conclusion: Maximal strength training for 8 wk improved running economy and increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed among welltrained, long-distance runners, without change in maximal oxygen uptake or body weight"

They will both help you. The results vary from person to person. Some people will see a slight increase while others see huge gains. To put it in a term that anyone can understand, would be efficiency. *If you are running and say your legs produce, at maximal, 500 N of force, and every step you take while running produces 100 N of force, you are using 20% of your maximal effort. Now say through squatting you increase your maximal effort to 750 N. If you do not improve your running efficiency at all, you are now pushing with 150 N per step, which is still just 20%. That means more distance covered per step. Now you would still want to work in muscular endurance workouts, and workouts designed for managing your lactic acid threshold, but you can see the results. Deadlifts will also improve core strength. Your abs, back, lats will all see improvement and resistance to fatigue. There is even a trend going on of moving away from long, slow distance training in some groups. This is one man's story of how he trained for big events. http://www.gotrimax.com/TriMaxBmac.htm . Take from this what you will. I am not recommending changing your routine in any way, I am just showing you that success can be found in a variety of ways. What works for him might not work for you. Good luck.

*The math on this is not realistic. Please don't judge me for this. It is slightly more complicated than what I posted, but what is up there is just a general idea of how it works.

  • That's an interesting take. Personally, I experienced my 5K times degrade to 24 minutes or slower, where I had previously consistently been hitting 19 to 20 minutes before I added squat and dead lift to my workout routine. I'm only now slowly converging on 20 minutes again. Granted, 5K is not long distance, but I've also found that I don't feel like running longer distances anymore. I feel the effects of a 10+ mile run getting in the way of lifting weights three times a week. For now, I've chosen to build up strength and settle with 5Ks. – user240 Oct 18 '11 at 1:26

The short version is that there won't be a big effect on long runs from combining exercises like squats. These exercises develop fast twitch muscle fibers instead of the slow twitch muscle fibers your legs are most likely primarily made of. It will give you more "pop" if you will at the start or near the end of the race, but I doubt it would be noticeable. For the long version or if you want to read more in depth about the different muscle fiber, a great resource is http://www.coachr.org/fiber.htm especially take note of the "IMPLICATIONS FOR TRAINING" section, that may be very beneficial.

  • 2
    This is incorrect. These exercises don't inherently develop fast twitch muscle. The recruitment of fast vs slow twitch muscle fibers is completely dependent on the way the exercises are performed. Also, it's not accurate to say that "It will give you more "pop" if you will at the start or near the end of the race." It may contribute to a similar result but there are so many other dependent factors there's no point in speculating on this. – matt Apr 6 '11 at 15:23
  • -1 Regardless of fast- or slow-twitch muscle fibers, strength exercises by definition make us stronger. Stronger muscles can exert more force, and thus can exert less energy doing the same amount of work, thus making long runs easier. – Dave Liepmann Oct 7 '11 at 19:32

I am an avid runner. Several years ago i took up squats as a part of my regiment. I can tell you that it will absolutely ruin your current running ability, although over the long term it actually seems rather helpful for injury prevention and positively effects short distance running, and ends up not effecting long distance skill all that much.

  • Personal anecdotes aren't the highest quality answers. Unfortunately you don't have the 50 rep to leave this as a comment yet. – Noumenon Feb 2 '15 at 5:31

I think it all depends on how much pain, stretching, fast, and slow twitch training you can handle.

Having said that , obviously nutrition and rest are important.

I think most people, including myself overtrain. I.e. Most focus on quantity over quality. For the pure endurance athlete, this is less of an issue. As you move to the extremes of fast or slow twitch ( sprints or power lifting) , I think overtraining is a real issue.

I really believe that you need to pick a mixed fiber type i.e. endurance sport or short burst sport like power lifting or sprinting 100-200 M ( if you want to excell).

It's just not possible to break down all kinds of tissue running miles and then expect to squat two times body weight.

I guess the only way to confirm, would be for me to quit running and just lift for 6 months.

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