Running = lifting weights?

Strength training is the I try to lift weights at least two or three times a week and it is the primary focus with my clients. While my niche is not Olympic-style lifts and 5 set of 5 reps of exercises, I do push my clients to use moderate-to-heavy weights (with a smile and a laugh so no one feels threatened). Today, I want to explore a particular conversation that I’ve had multiple times, with multiple people.

“So, do you engage in any sort of weight lifting throughout the week? Machines, free weights, group exercises classes?”

“Each morning I go on a run with my dog; does that count?”

The client and I then proceed to talk about why that does or does not count. What do you think, ye or ney?


The answer is ney! Running/jogging/walking is not quite the same as weight lifting. It is possible for a certain amount of muscle to be gained, but it is definitely not the only way to go if you want to increase your strength.

Surprsied? This sound may have escaped your vocal cords:

It’s not completely incorrect to think that the two are related. While running, you are propelling your own body weight forward and pushing off the ground using your muscles…you might even be going up and down some hills! But:

  • Running is, in general, a forward motion: Think about it. You are moving forward along the same direction as the ground. Besides your own body weight, there is no extra load that your bones and muscles have to adapt to. When you are lifting weights, you are generally pushing or pulling weight away from the ground — a more vertical motion. Yes, you can certainly jog backwards, up and down hills, or lift weights in a diagonal motion, but the basic principal is the same. Running tends to be more forward in motion, while lifting is more up-and-down.
  • Because running isn’t much vertical motion there is less strength gain: Why? This brings us to something called the overload principle: in order to increase our muscular strength, we must apply a load to the muscles that is greater than normal. With running, we are not doing a very good job of resisting weight against gravity, which is what part of strength training entails.

If you can relate to thinking that running or doing a fair amount of cardio means that you can say “I’ll pass” to strength training, sit up with good posture at your desk.


…And then take a look why and how you should be lifting more frequently:


  1. It’s good for your bones: recall the “overload principle” that we talked about. The OP also applies to bone strength. Similar to muscle, bone will adapt to loads placed on it. This is crucial when we think about osteoporosis and ways to prevent it. You may be in your 20′s or 30′s and “invincible”, but think of it like investing money: the earlier you start saving money (aka building healthy strength training habits) the better off you’ll be when you’re older.
  2. It will make your life easier: have you ever struggled to place your carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment? Attempted, without success, to open a jar of jam and had to call for help? It may be time to either start lifting weights or, if you already lift, add more resistance. If you maintain a solid strength training routine, not only will you see improvements in the gym but in activities of daily living.

The lid is really tight!

BUT HOW?! Let’s go over another FITT principle, this time for general muscular fitness, according to ACSM guidelines (2010):

Frequency: 2-3 days per week with at least 48 hours between sessions for the same muscle group.

Intensity: 60-80% of your one repetition maximum (1-RM). Your 1-RM is the highest amount of weight you can lift in one repetition. I like to think of 60-80% as referring to a weight that is challenging but doable. It should be difficult to perform the last few repetitions but not impossible.

Time: everyone will complete a strength training routine in various times, so there is no concrete number for how long your total regimen should be. I tend to lift for about 30 minutes; I know others who take up to an hour or more. It usually depends on how much time you have and long you rest between sets.

Type: multijoint or compound exercises that focus on major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, upper/lower back, abdomen, hips, legs). Multijoint or compound exercises are those that incorporate the use of more than one muscle group. However, single-joint exercises that target major muscle groups can be included (e.g. calf raises or bicep curls).

I may have opened Pandora’s box with all this weight lifting talk. My next post will involve busting some myths about weight lifting, so stay tuned! If you have any burning questions or want to discuss strength training in more detail, leave a comment so we can continue talking about one of my favorite aspects of fitness. Otherwise, reevaluate your exercise program and starting saying “hello!” to more lifting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s