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Training for a Marathon? You Should be Lifting

News Sweere Clinic Training For A Marathon You Should Be Lifting (May 2023) (1)

Training for a Marathon?

So, you’ve decided to run a marathon. Your first thought is probably “wow, I’m about to cover a lot of miles.” While a long, strong running plan is necessary when preparing for a marathon, it’s not the only exercise you should think of.

Weight training for marathon runners can make a significant difference. Whether you’re concerned about injury or trying to PR, weightlifting should absolutely be part of your training plan.

What Will Weight Training Help With? Most Everything.

Running is an ideal way to prepare for a marathon, as you would expect. Getting those miles in will prepare your legs and strengthen your lungs, ensuring you’re ready for 26.2 miles. But think about how much force all those miles are putting on your body.

“When you’re running, you’re going to strengthen the heart and lungs, but you’re also going to break down muscle tissue and build up lactic acid,” explained Greg DeNunzio, DC, MS, BSME. “The strength training helps to absorb the physical forces on the muscles and joints, tendons and ligaments, and it allows for greater efficiency of the oxygen absorbed by the body for use while exercising.”


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Dr. DeNunzio knows a few things about training. As a runner himself, who has completed marathons and duathlons, he’s also the clinical lead of Sweere Clinic at NWHSU. He has worked with athletes of all ages and abilities, including USA weightlifters, CrossFit athletes, and ultra marathon runners. He also holds an MS in Exercise Science.

To put it simply, strength training for marathon runners can help with ease of breathing, muscle strength, and injury prevention. It might seem obvious that lifting would strengthen your muscles and help you better tolerate forces on the body, but it also has more benefits than you might think.

For example, weightlifting creates lean muscle mass, which allows oxygen to flow better through the lungs, vessels, and the muscles themselves. What does that mean for you? More efficiency, which should make your training miles feel better.

What Should Weight Training for Marathon Runners Look Like?

Dr. DeNunzio says exercises that work larger muscle groups are a great place to start. This includes deadlifts, lunges, squats, bench presses, overhead presses, and planks.

One thing to think about with exercises that use many muscle groups at once is that your stronger muscles can compensate for weaker muscles. For example, if your right side is stronger than your left and you’re doing an overhead press, your right side can easily take over and compensate. That means you’ll actually be increasing the strength imbalances in your body.


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For this reason, Dr. DeNunzio recommends unilateral training: training one side of the body at a time. We asked for some specific examples of how to train effectively:

  • Use cables (versus a barbell). For example, try standing chest presses with a cable, pressing with one arm at a time with your feet in a staggered stance (one foot in front of the other).
  • Work your angles. For lunges, don’t only go forward/backward and side to side, lunge at various angles to help strengthen all the way around the joint. “Unilateral training allows for movement in various planes of motion so that you are strengthening ‘around’ the joint,” DeNunzio explained. “To me, this is one of the keys to injury prevention, along with stretching.”
  • Balance on one foot. Single leg deadlifts help you isolate one side at a time, and work your balance, making them a win-win.
  • Add side planks. Why? “Side planks get to the hips in a different way and get to the muscles that help absorb the forces every time your foot hits the ground and those forces are transmitted up through the hips,” explained DeNunzio.

Don’t Forget to Ease in and Stretch

Another important thing to remember with weight training is that you don’t have to go to the extreme for it to be effective. Start with lighter weights and higher reps until your body gets used to the movements. When you feel comfortable with the movements, you can gradually increase the weight and decrease the reps.

Finally, don’t forget to stretch! “When the muscles are tight, such as the hamstrings for example, all of the vessels going through the muscle are getting squeezed,” DeNunzio said. “That potentially inhibits blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to the body. Flexibility is another key to injury prevention. After you get done with running or strength training, take the time to stretch while the muscles are warm.”

Need a little extra support during your marathon training? Dr. DeNunzio and other providers at the Sweere Clinic have experience supporting athletes: whether you’re looking to recover from a pesky injury, prevent new injuries, or increase your performance.

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