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How to get stronger: body weight doesn't cut it

For a majority of my patients, the injury they are dealing with was not a result of a distinct event. “I was lifting this box and then *snap* … I knew I pulled something”. Injuries, especially in the endurance athlete, are a result of repetitive micro-injuries that eventually cross that threshold into a full blow problem. They are overuse injuries.

Overuse injuries occur due to a capacity issue. The muscle, tendon, bone, ligament that is injured got over-worked because there was not sufficient strength or endurance of the muscles that support their sport of choice.

So how do we get back from an overuse injury and build back better?

Build capacity… aka build strength and endurance.

Endurance athletes know endurance… they are comfortable with endurance training. Strength training is generally the missing link in their training.

Why Strength Training

Before you stop reading because you barely have time to fit in stretching and foam rolling after your run, let alone strength training…consider this:

Running is essentially leaping from 1 foot to the next. So you need to control your body weight plus acceleration with each step. You take 170 (give or take) steps per minute. You’re running for however many minutes…. How many single leg squats do you think you can do?

Of course running is not as strenuous as doing single leg squats repetitively because we use stored elastic energy to propel ourselves. However, you can see how strength to control your body weight is essential to sustain your running. It only has to be 20-30 minutes 2-3 times per week. Would you spend 60-90 minutes each week to sustain your running and optimize your performance?

Body weight is not enough

Now that we understand why we need to strength train… I am going to drop a bomb. Body weight doesn’t cut it…in most instances.

To build strength you must be using moderate to high loads. In other words: If you are doing a squat, you should be using a weight that is 60-90% of your 1 rep max (1 RM). Your 1 RM, is the amount of weight that you hold when you are only able to perform 1 repetition of an exercise. So if you can do 40 air squats with no difficulty, we need to add some weight.

How much weight should I use?

Many of us do not have the ability to perform a 1 rep max test. A less intimidating and safer way to calculate your 1 RM is by performing 10 rep max testing. Whatever your 10 rep max is (holding good form), you multiply that weight by 1.333333 or 100/75. That is an estimate of your 1 rep max.

Now that you know the estimate of your 1 RM, you will calculate 60-90% of that weight. That is the weight you utilize for your strengthening exercises.

How many reps and sets?

A strengthening reps and sets scheme is 3-6 sets of 1-8 repetitions. The lower the repetitions per set, the closer the weight is to your 1 RM. If you are new to strength training, I would suggest starting with a weight that is 60-70% of your calculated 1 RM. And perform 3 sets of 8. You need to ensure that you build in rest between each set, so that you can perform with proper form for each subsequent set.

I don’t know how to begin or what exercises to do

If you are wondering where to start, I would suggest making an appointment for a Performance Assessment. We will use that hour to understand your goals, injury history, training experience, and analyze your running form to identify areas to focus your strength training.


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