The background

I am training for running and sport climbing; I also have a good barbell rack in the basement and have good technique for the "big 5" barbell exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell rows, overhead press) from doing them a lot, a decade or so ago.

My 2023 running volume was 1200km, running 3-5 times most weeks, following structured training plans with a sub-2h HM PR. In parallel I climbed 2-5 times a week (UIAA 7-8 on rope, French 6a-b bouldering), and done regular full-body mobility, flexibility work; and very occasionally some additional running-specific strength training.

The focus of this question is injury avoidance, not competitive race results. My primary goal for running is to be able to do it as much as possible without injury (because I love it very much); I do race regularly, but only against my own results.

The issue

On the one hand, I want to do more strength training again for its own sake; mostly because, well, I like to be strong, but also because I'm in my late 40s and like to prepare for the years to come.

Secondly, I have a sedentiary job and am not a "natural" runner, i.e. when I started out I had plenty of joint issues, which I fixed completely using running-specific exercises (some body-weight strength, mobility etc.). I wish to avoid running injuries as well as possible.

Obviously, when looking for running-related strength exercises, one finds primarily body-weight routines targetting especially smaller muscles (or often underused ones due to sitting a lot) that tend to lead to imbalances and running injuries if week. Or even barbell-based sessions that are quite different from the "big 5" barbell movements I've mentioned above.

But as much as I love and adore my two main disciplines, and barbell-based training, I really do not like the running-specific strength sessions beyond using them for a few weeks to fix something that pops up. I understand that they are, well, specific to running, often targetting tiny little muscles that are not really the focus of the big barbell movements; I understand very well that they are probably the best one can do, time-efficiency wise and so on and forth. But a strength routine I'm not doing because of motivation issues is not going to help me.

The question

Will doing the "big 5" classical barbell exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, rows) to a reasonable level of weight (for example, let's randomly say roughly body weight on the bar, for squats), eventually in long-term maintenance mode (maybe 1-2 sessions per week once a reasonable level has been reached) be at least somewhat worthwhile for avoiding running injuries? Or would they actually lead to further imbalances that would force me to do other running-specific strength exercises for some smaller muscles to keep up with the big ones, but now even more so since the big muscles are even bigger now?

Or should I put this plan to rest and focus on finding a more running-specific strength routine that I really like to do, instead?

To be clear, whatever the outcome, I would still be continuing with my regular full-body mobilization, balance, stretching routines etc.


1 Answer 1


Assuming that you do not injure yourself in the weightlifting itself, then the weightlifting can possibly assist with both injury prevention and performance improvement in your running.

If you take a look through google (I used the keywords weighlifting running injury increase), there are quite a few studies that show up to 50% injury rate reduction with a combined weightlifting program.

The one thing that I might look at is the selection of your exercises. The "big 5" as you put it are great for beginners in a weight room, and as a foundation of a strength program. However once you get past the basic training and adaptation phase, I prefer to recommend a sports or life specific mobility and weight program.

For example, I am a martial arts instructor and I play competitive golf. I rarely do a strength specific program, I have a lot more plyometrics, motion resistance and movement based (medicine ball slams, wall throws, wood choppers) exercises than pure strength. I do prescribe the Big 5 for people that are brand new to training, however.'

As an n=1, I am in my upper 50's, ran cross country in HS and college, triathlons for many years, and the only major injury I've ever had was a freak Achilles rupture about 12 years ago. Never had a problem with hips, knees, back. (My shoulders will probably have to be looked at some day, but that's from swimming in the 70's. The stretching exercises of that era are known to be bad now).

  • Thanks for your nice answer. I prefer to recommend a ... life specific ... weight program. Interesting. I was under the impression that the exercises I mentioned are hitting all the important parts and could be done basically forever (not to get arbitrarily strong, but to keep the body in balance at whatever level you can achieve with them - obv. not if lifting were the prime focus, which it won't be for me)? If you have a go-to long-term "maintenance" plan or choice of exercises you can recommend, can you add it (in short words or as a link) to your answer?
    – AnoE
    Feb 10 at 18:00

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