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Powerlifting for Powerful Trail Running

Experienced trail and ultrarunner Linda Barton-Robbins explains how powerlifting will benefit your trail running.

This article is an interesting read as it relates to a type of cross training that most runners avoid and often see as the antithesis of running – powerlifting.  The sport of powerlifting has experienced a resurgence in recent years.  Competitions involve maximum strength for 3 lifts- bench press, squat, and deadlift. Training often involves a variety of lifts with the goal of increasing strength on these primary three.  I am going to assume that most of you reading my review are runners who are curious about other forms of physical training and I will refer to heavy strength training in general rather than specifically those three lifts. 

This article starts with some very good advice – to start small and have experienced help.  Lifting heavy weights involves skill and efficient mechanics the same way that running does.  Running is a relativity low load movement performed over and over which can lead to injury, especially with less than optimal mechanics.  Heavy lifting involves high loads on joints and muscles and can also lead to injury.  In the same way it is generally not a good idea to jump off your couch and run a marathon, heavy lifting requires conditioning your body to move efficiently and handle increased loads.  It is prudent to have help with developing proper form and developing a program for progression.  Much like runners, lifters also deal with plateaus and need to vary their training routines.

The claim made in this article that you will be stronger on your lifting the day after an intense run is anecdotal and generally not supported by scientific literature. It is difficult to train for two very different sports concurrently.  Triathletes, for example, train different modalities, but their training is based around endurance. Heavy strength training has very little physiological overlap with running. Endurance activities encourage changes in muscle for long term use rather than maximum force.  There is a reason that most competitive power lifters are not also consistently running ultramarathons and the inverse is also true.  If you deplete your muscles during a run you will likely not feel amazing during your lift.  If you max out lifts (especially lower body) you will probably not achieve a PR for your 10k the next day.  There are ways to vary training programs during set periods of time, usually based around emphasis of power or endurance, but most people chose to emphasize their more important modality (i.e. running or heavy lifting) and use the other as an adjunct.  This article shares one woman’s unique story and while interesting, is anecdotal and should not be read as scientific fact.  It should come with the disclaimer ‘results may vary’.

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