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Weight Training for Sports

While running over a half-mile or so is primarily an aerobic activity, even long-distance runners can benefit from improved muscular strength. The added strength will help you to power up hills, but the main reason for runners to lift is injury prevention. For example:
  • Patellar tendinitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue around the kneecap, is a common running injury that can be prevented or minimized with improved quadriceps strength.
  • Hamstring strains, which are as common to veteran runners as Gatorade at road races, can be prevented with a sound strength-training program as well.
  • Trochanteric bursitis is another condition common in runners, cross-country skiers, and ballet dancers that can be kept at bay with weight training. When the bursa becomes inflamed, the result is a deep, burning pain on the trochanter itself or, less often, down the side of the thigh. Treatment of this condition, aside from rest, ice, stretching, and anti-inflammatories, involves strengthening all of the gluteal muscles.

Another concern of distance runners that can be improved with a sound weight program is the imbalance between the hamstrings and the quadriceps. Most distance runners have well-developed hamstrings but weak quadriceps. Strengthening the quads can help prevent running injuries and will help restore the proper balance.

Finally, while running is obviously primarily a lower body activity, you'd be surprised at how much your upper body contributes. If you don't believe us, try running up a hill with your hands behind your back. Large muscles are a hindrance; strong muscles will help you run faster.

The following table lists specific body parts and exercises that are good to perform together if you are a runner.

Body Part Exercises
Legs and hips Squat or leg press
Leg curl
Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise
Back Pull-ups (assisted if necessary)
Chest Dips (assisted if necessary)
Shoulders Shoulder press
Arms Seated biceps curl
Triceps pushdown
Midsection Reverse crunches
Oblique crunches
Back raises

Many of the injuries among cyclists are a result of improper mechanics rather than muscular weakness. Some of these injures include patellar tendinitis, quadriceps tendinitis, pes anserinus bursitis, chondromalacia patella, and iliotibial band syndrome.

Just as with runners, cyclists often suffer from muscular imbalances, though their imbalance is the opposite of what runners encounter. While Jonathan's quads have served him well through hundreds of bicycle races (as well as a few races up the stairs of the Empire State Building), by comparison, his hamstrings are woefully weak. A good dose of leg curls could help remedy his problem.

As in the case of runners, added extra body bulk can be detrimental, but upper body strength is necessary when sprinting and riding out of the saddle while you're powering your way up a steep hill. In addition, midsection strength can help give you a good, solid base for all those miles in the saddle. Back exercises can help reverse the hunched posture caused by all those hours of riding. Finally, don't forget those neck exercises we mentioned earlier.


Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.

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