Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Guide

Strength Training for Marathons

It is slightly counter-intuitive to many runners that the stronger they are the better their marathon training will become. The idea of lifting weights engenders images of sprinters with lots of muscles, which would only be a hindrance to a marathon runner.

It is certainly true that no top marathon runners weight 14 or 15 stone, but equally most of them have a very good strength to weight ratio.

To try to convince you of this consider your running as a series of leg exercises which are done repetitively, many, many times. Obviously you want to lift as light as weight as possible on each lift, hence why marathon runners are generally light, but if you were stronger then this would be easier.

Science has shown that athletes can lift about 10 reps at 70% of maximum weight. This extends to 40% for 50 reps and extends beyond this.

So, if you can physically lift more for a one off lift, then it will help with the 30,000 or so reps that you need to do in a race - provided the weight you are lifting on each lift (your body) isn't much heavier than it was.

What weights should I do?

The weight training that marathon runners should be doing will be looking to improve strength without adding significant extra muscle, althoug a little more muscle could be needed to help (about 30% of the mass of the most people is muscle, so adding just 1% to body weight in muscle would give you about 3-4% extra muscle to help drive you round the marathon.

We suggest that you should do a little weight training to increase muscle size (if you are an average marathon runner), which is called hypertrophy. This is best done with sets of 6-10 repetitions.

Again, counter-intuitively, the work that you need to then do to increase your strength is with less reps (3-5 per set) and (3-5 sets) as you might think that you would want to do more repetitions as a marathon runner than a sprinter.

However, high numbers of repetitions (beyond 15 per set) will just increase the levels of lactate in the muscles used and not develop strength. As a marathon is almost entirely aerobic, this doesn't serve any practical training use for marathon runners (apart from possible helping with a sprint finish!)

Weights Exercises

As with other runners the best exercises are those that best replicate the way muscles are used in running

These include the Olympic Lifts (Cleans and Snatch) as well as Squats and Straight-Leg Dead Lifts.

See the Weight Training section of the site for more help with doing these exercise.

Learn more / further reading

  1. Types of Training
  2. Mileage
  3. Long Runs
  4. Weekly Plan
  5. Recovery
  6. Running Technique
  7. Lifestyle
  8. Marathon Running Gear

If you would like some more help with your training to move you on to the next level with your running, why not try our Online Coaching facility.
















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