There’s a lot of confusing information out there about how runners should approach strength training. Some people say you should use very light weights and do a ton of reps so you don’t bulk up too …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 199 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners, and today, Strength, Power, and Hypertrophy For Runners.
So there’s a lot of confusing information out there about how runners should approach strength training and exactly what do we mean when we say strength training? Some people think you should use very light weights and do a ton of reps you know, so you don’t bulk up too much.
Other people suggest lifting heavy weights and doing fewer reps. But for a lot of runners, that seems kind of scary. And they’re like, oh no, is this good? Is it going to help me with my endurance? So what is the right answer for you? That’s what this episode is all about.
In this episode, I’m gonna explain the difference between training for strength, power, and hypertrophy and what all those things mean. Hopefully, by the end of this episode, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of these different resistance training methodologies and how to do them correctly.
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You can find it on my website, just go to runningleancoaching.com and click on Free Training. And it’s free by the way. Okay, let’s talk about strength, power, and hypertrophy for runners. So first of all, I want to stress the importance of this topic today, which is resistance training.
So a lot of people just lump it all into strength training, they say strength training, and that’s what everybody thinks of. But there are actually different ways of improving your skeletal muscle, so you can strengthen your muscles or you can get bigger muscles, or you can get more powerful muscles. And I’m gonna explain the difference between those today.
But resistance training helps to improve your health in many, many ways. I always say that the number one driver of your health of your body composition is going to be nutrition. Food plays such a huge role in your body composition, your ability to burn fat, the second biggest driver of body composition and fat burning.
And overall health is going to be resistance training. So you got to be doing some sort of regular resistance training. I talked to so many runners every single day who tell me, oh, I’m great with my running. I do that all the time, but I just never hit the gym. I never do resistance training. I hate it. I don’t like going to the gym.
And I’m just like why? It is the best thing that you can do for yourself from a fitness standpoint, better than running, running is catabolic. Running breaks down muscle, it really does. And if you’re not, if you’re like running long distances, and you’re doing no strength training, that’s not a good combination.
Okay, so we got to be doing some regular resistance training. But there are different ways you want to do it depending on what your goals are. But some of the benefits that you get from resistance training and doing these things regularly, and becoming stronger and putting on a little bit of extra muscle is things like improved body composition, so you have more muscle mass and less fat mass so your body composition gets improved, and you look better, you look better naked, which is amazing.
Regular resistance training will help you burn more fat. It helps to improve your endurance because you’re able to run longer distances on fat as fuel number one, but also you’re able to improve your endurance because your muscles won’t fatigue as quickly as someone who doesn’t have as strong of muscles.
So when your muscles are stronger, you can actually run longer distances before you fatigue. Regular resistance training helps improve your speed as a runner because you can run faster and push yourself harder. Because you have more muscle mass, it helps to improve your power-to-weight ratio, which just means that, you know, the weight on your body isn’t necessarily fat, it’s more muscle.
And so that weight is actually propelling you faster down the road. Okay, so your power-to-weight ratio goes up because you can burn some more fat and then you have more muscle and so you’re going to be a more powerful, faster runner.
Regular resistance training helps to prevent injuries. This is one of the big keys that a lot of runners don’t understand why they keep getting injured. And the thing you have to understand is that when you’re stronger, your whole body is stronger, not just your legs, but you know head to toe, you are less likely to get injured.
Getting stronger, helps to protect muscles, but it helps to protect your joints as well because we have all these connective tissues, ligaments, and tendons that are holding our joints together in this thing, these things are really involved with running, most running injuries, our connective tissue injuries, you know, there’s tendinitis in different areas, that tends to be where people get the most injuries from running.
And so regular strength training can help prevent injuries in those areas as well. Regular strength training helps improve your lactate threshold, meaning you can clear lactate faster, it helps improve your metabolism and helps you burn more calories.
Also, muscle tissue that has been well trained, is more efficient at utilizing calories. So you know you’re more energy efficient at changing protein into muscle and things like that. So so many ways that your metabolism gets improved from doing regular resistance training. It helps prevent sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is muscle loss as you get older.
And I was just reading a study recently that showed that people as young as 30 are starting to experience sarcopenia. And if you’re getting muscle loss as early as 30 years old, and that just continues as you get older, you’re not going to be in good shape. When you get older, you’re not going to be able to pick up your grandkids or you know, you won’t be ambulatory, you won’t be able to walk.
You know a lot of people that as they get older, they lose muscle and they get injured because they can’t carry themselves properly, they fall down, they break a hip and then they’re like bedridden. And this really drastically speeds up the aging process. And people die a lot earlier when they don’t have as much muscle mass.
So you got to be doing regular resistance training, starting today, for the rest of your life. Okay. It also helps improve bone density, a lot of women talk about osteoporosis, and something that is a concern for a lot of people in general. Well, regular resistance training will help offset that.
Regular resistance training helps boost energy and helps improve your sleep. It just helps you to live longer. They’ve done studies that have shown that people who exercise regularly and they did studies comparing people who did cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, the people who did regular resistance training and no cardio actually live longer.
So I’m not saying don’t do cardio, but I’m just saying that regardless of whether they do cardio or not the people who did regular resistance training lived longer. So we’re just talking about quality of life here.
So there are so many benefits and there’s probably even more, I’m just listing the ones that I think are especially important for us as we get older and you as a runner, but there are so many benefits to regular resistance training. If you’re not doing this right now, just you have to start.
Okay, and I’m gonna give you some help here and give you a little bit of guidance to get you started. But just understand that it is key that you are doing something regularly which means twice a week at least, you can do more than that which is totally fine.
I think a lot of people get really great results when they do it three or four times a week. But you can get good results by just working out and doing some sort of resistance training twice a week.
I have a great program that I teach to my clients which is 20 minutes twice a week. It’s a full-body workout that you only have to do twice a week. And it is very effective and a great place for most people to start and once they get you know a few months into that they can start to change that up and maybe add more to that. But that’s a great place to start.
So if you’re thinking I don’t have time to do it, you have time you have 20 minutes twice a week. Or if you’re like oh I don’t have a gym membership. You don’t need a gym membership. You can do this a lot of this stuff at home you can at least get started at home.
You can get some resistance bands for a little money maybe 50 bucks, 75 bucks, something like that. You can get a set of resistance bands with different resistance weights on them, technically like the different weights, they’ll say like 20 pounds of resistance, 40 pounds resistance, 60 pounds resistance.
Those are great because you can use them anywhere, and you can take them on vacation with you. I mean, yeah, I take my resistance bands on vacation with me and I work out in the hotel room, you know, because it’s that important to me, you know.
So it doesn’t take a gym membership, it doesn’t take a lot of time, you don’t have to become a gym rat and spend all your time six or eight hours at the gym every week, just start right and start doing this consistently. And as you do this, you’re going to feel so much better. You’re just going to. Your quality of life is going to improve, you’re going to sleep better, you’re going to have more energy.
Running will improve, you’re not going to be as injured, you’re going to be burning more fat, your body composition is going to improve, people are going to go oh, man, you’re looking like your skeletal tone there.
You know, that looks great. All that stuff is possible for you, but you have to start. Okay. So one principle I want to go into before we talk about the different the differences between strength power and hypertrophy is the progressive overload principle, which means that in order to strengthen a muscle, or to grow a muscle, you have to overload that muscle.
And we don’t want to do that massively by lifting 1000 pounds, the first time you go and lift weights, it’s progressive overload because you have to progressively overload that muscle, or you’re not going to get the benefits.
So what I mean like that, like, imagine you’re doing bicep curls, we all know what that looks like. And you grab a 10-pound weight, and you’re able to do 10 bicep curls until you just can’t do another one, and you hit failure.
So you, you get about halfway up and you just cannot finish that rep. That’s called failure when you cannot finish a rep with good form. That is, that is where you’re gonna stop with that exercise, because you’ve hit your threshold, right? So you cannot go anymore.
So you’ve hit that threshold, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to, you know, give it a day or two to rest that muscle, and then you’re going to try it again. And this time, you might be able to do 11 reps, okay, so you’re gonna progressively overload that muscle.
And again, you’re gonna go and do 11 reps until you hit that failure again. And then you have, you have seen some improvement, you’ve made some progress, you overloaded the muscle, the muscle had an adaptive response, a positive adapt adaptation to that overload and said, I need to get stronger, I need to grow.
And there are different ways muscles grow, muscles can get stronger, or muscles can get bigger. And there’s a little bit of overlap between the different ways we’re going to talk about building muscle here.
But you know, when you’re doing strict strength training, you will see some muscle growth when you’re using when you’re training for muscle growth, you will see some strength improvements as well.
But just understand that we want to overload the muscle in order for it to have that positive adaptation, whether it’s to get bigger or to get stronger. Okay, so that is very important. We just have to remember that principle here.
Okay, so, first of all, let’s talk about strength and strength training. Why do we want to train for strength? Well, we want to get stronger as human beings, we want to be able to carry ourselves around, we want to be able to run longer distances, we want to be able to lift heavier things, you know, we want to be able to enjoy the quality of life.
As we get older, all these things are going to be improved when you do regular strength training, and you’re not going to get bigger, you’re not necessarily going to get much bigger muscles, they will grow a little bit, but it’s going to be pretty minimal. Okay, so people that think, oh my gosh, I don’t want to train strength training, because I’m afraid I’m gonna get all big like a bodybuilder.
Don’t worry about that. It is really, really hard to get big, like a bodybuilder. I know from experience, I’ve been trying this and I’m a little bit older. And it does get a little bit harder as you get older too. But I’m a little bit older. And I’ve been I’ve been doing very targeted hypertrophy and strength training to get bigger muscles, eating extra calories. And it is very hard to do. I am doing it. I am getting bigger, but it is it’s taking a long time. And it’s very hard to do. I don’t think you need to worry about that.
But I think it is important and we can all benefit from getting stronger. So I think strength training is something we definitely want to be focusing on at least at some point in your training cycle.
Let’s say you’re training for a marathon. You know, you want to be doing some sort of strength training throughout the entirety of that training cycle. You don’t want to be you don’t want to just do the strength training in the offseason I’ve heard people say that to like, oh, I’m only going to do it in the offseason. Why? Because you only want to be strong in the offseason? You only want to be injury-free in the offseason? You only want more energy in the offseason?
No, don’t do that. The only time you really need to not do any strength training is right before a race, I usually tell people to take the week of a race off. And the week before you can do some light strength training, but don’t get too, you know, don’t lift too much.
You don’t want to be sore, you don’t want to be sore go leading into your a race, you know. So you can train all the way through your training cycle, you can wait to train through your entire training cycle just that last week when you’re tapering, and you’re about ready to do your race. Cut it out, just don’t do any of it. That way, you’re just 100% for your race, okay?
But we want to get stronger. And if you’re somebody who wants to get stronger and be able to lift heavier things, and to be able to improve your running performance to become a faster runner and improve your endurance, then building training for strength is going to be how you want to do this.
Okay, so this is about improving the strength of your muscle fibers, not necessarily increasing size, the size will increase a little bit, but we’re more interested in improving the strength of those muscle fibers. And the way we do it, I’m going to tell you exactly how you train for strength.
The first thing to understand is that you want to shoot for around 85% of your one-rep max. Okay, now you’re probably thinking what the hell is he talking about? What is a one-rep max? A one-rep max is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition.
Okay, but you don’t have to go and lift something super heavy and hurt yourself to determine what your one-rep max is. Instead, there’s a calculator you can use online and I don’t have the website address in front of me here, I meant to write it down, but I didn’t write it down.
But just do a search for a one-rep max calculator. And what it’ll do is, it’ll take something you’ve done, like let’s say you’ve done a benchpress, and you’re able to do 12 reps on a benchpress at 100 pounds, then it’ll tell you what your one rep max would be for that exercise.
Okay, so let’s say you can do 100 pounds 12 times on a benchpress, you put this number into this calculator, and it says, okay, your one rep max for the benchpress is 140 pounds, I actually did this and I put the data in here. So 140 pounds would be your one-rep max.
So we want to take 85% of that, which is like 119 pounds, so we’ll just round it up to 120. So for strength, you want to be doing benchpress, around 120 pounds. Okay, easy peasy, right 85% of your one-rep max. That’s number one.
The next part of this, and this is going to be really easy to remember is for strength training, we want to use the three to five principle. That means we want to train each muscle group three to five times a week, we want to do three to five exercises each time, and we want to do three to five repetitions of each exercise. And then we want to do three to five sets of each exercise.
So three to five sets, three to five reps of each exercise, three to five exercises three to five times a week, and then a three to five-minute rest in between sets. That’s a long time to rest in between sets, but you want to start each new set, feeling like 100%.
Okay, so the three to five principle is exercise three to five times a week, choose three to five exercises to do three to five sets three to five repetitions of each exercise, and then three to five minutes rest between, okay, that’s easy to remember three to five, that’s all you got to remember.
If you do that, you will get stronger, you’re going to build strength right now that 85% of your one-rep max, which is going to go up as you progress with this. Okay, so we want to aim for three to five. And this is actually another three to five number three to 5% increase in resistance each week.
So when we’re talking about progressively overloading, we got to increase that weight that we’re lifting each week. So we want to have just a slight increase each week, don’t try to go you know, 20% increase each week or something like that, you’re gonna hurt yourself. Just go slow, and shoot for that three to 5% increase in resistance each week. Okay.
And I do need to just say this. Like, you have to make sure that you’re doing your exercises safely. I’m just taking this information I’m sharing here as generalized information. You and I are not working together. But just take this information and make sure that you’re cleared to do weight training, and that you’re doing these exercises safely. Okay, that’s very important.
That’s my little disclaimer right there. Okay, so that is strength. We want to shoot for 85% of our one-rep max and then use that three to five principle. Now the same principles are going to apply when we talk about power pretty much, there’s going to be a few exceptions here. But understand that power is going to be very similar to strength with one exception being that we’re adding in speed.
So we’re going to add speed, times of force force is the amount of weight you’re lifting. So speed is how quickly you’re lifting that weight. And that equals power. So what we’re using as the primary driver to build power is intensity.
So the intensity of these exercises is going to be different when you’re doing resistance training for power versus strength. Okay, we’re going to be using for submaximal weight here. So we don’t want to use it as heavy weight, we want it to be about 30 to 70% of our one-rep max.
So you could use like 50%, maybe, as the number, you can start there and just kind of see if you need to go up or down from there. But we want to lift fast, we want to lift powerfully. So intensity is the primary driver. And these workouts that you do, if you’re lifting for power, they should not not be fatiguing, they should be non-fatiguing.
That means that you should still have gas in the tank at the end of your workout. Okay, and again, we want to progressively overload based off of power, but we want to aim for that three to 5% increase in each in resistance each week, not the volume. So we’re not increasing the volume, when we’re talking about increasing resistance, we’re talking about the weight on the bar, okay, or the weight of the resistance, or the amount of resistance, I should say.
So we don’t want to increase the volume, we want to keep the volume low when we’re training for strength and power. When we’re training for hypertrophy, which I’ll talk about in a minute, the volume is going to be higher, the weight is going to be less.
So training for strength and power is going to be similar. With a few of these exceptions, you’re going to use a little bit less resistance with the power just because you’re going to be lifting it very fast. So and that’s the big difference. They’re slow and controlled with strength training faster with the power. Okay.
Okay, next, let’s talk about hypertrophy. What is hypertrophy? So, strength training means we’re trying to improve the strength of the individual muscle fibers. hypertrophy is all about increasing the size of those muscle fibers. So hypertrophy is building bigger muscles.
So when you look at like bodybuilders, they’re mostly focused on hypertrophy. And something interesting, I think, a lot of runners that think about weight training, they want to do lighter weights and lots of reps. And they think that this is the way to make sure they don’t get too big.
But actually, the opposite is true. If you’re a runner, and you want to improve your running performance, you want to be just focused on that speed or that power and strength, like you want to focus on higher weights and lower reps actually, okay.
The opposite of hypertrophy is atrophy. You’ve probably heard that word before. So atrophy is a gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect, you do not want that. When your muscles atrophy, they are no longer strong, they’re no longer big, they get smaller. And we do not want that, we want to make sure that our muscle mass is we’re maintaining muscle mass as we get older, and maintaining muscle strength as we get older.
Okay, so hypertrophy is all about building bigger muscles. Okay? Again, there’s a little bit of overlap with these. But if you want to focus on hypertrophy, you’re going to do things a little bit differently. The three to five principle that’s great for building strength, and it’s great for power. But hypertrophy is a little bit different.
Strength is all about heavy loads. So you want to do fewer reps, but heavier, heavier weight, hypertrophy is all about volume. So hypertrophy is all about lots of sets, lots of reps with lighter weights, okay?
So when we talk about doing hypertrophy training, you probably want to start around 65% of your one rep max. So you can play around with that number, but that’s a good place to start. And what we’re looking for is something between like six and 30 reps per set, okay? Anywhere between like 12 and 20 is usually a good place to be like, that’s kind of the sweet spot, but it can be as high as 30 or as low as six.
I shoot for 15. Like, that’s just kind of a number that I think is a great number to get to for hypertrophy. And so that’s kind of where I go. If you can’t do 15, then you need to decrease the load.
You know, if you can’t get to that 15, or if you’re getting to like 25, and it’s still, you could keep going, maybe increase the weight a little bit. So you, you hit around 15 and maybe 17. I’ve been focused on hypertrophy lately at the gym, and I noticed that I’m getting between like 15 and 18 on most exercises. And then as I can continually do like, 18, 18, 18, I made up the weight until I can only do like 15.
And then I’m, I’ll get to the place where that would be that new weight if I can, you know, do 16 17, 18 pretty consistently, then I’ll up the weight again. Okay. So hypertrophy is, you know, we want to be around 65% of our one rep max, and then somewhere around 15 reps, and then three to 10 sets.
So we’re doing a lot of volume here. So with a lot of volume, you can’t do as heavy weights, but you can do more reps, lighter weights. And I like to shoot for the middle of that. So maybe six sets, okay.
So an example might be you’re doing squats. So you pick a number that’s like 65% of your one rep max. And do six sets of 15 reps of squats, and then your rest period in between these sets is shorter. So the rest between you know, power and strength is going to be three to five minutes.
You only want to rest for like 30 to 60 seconds between sets when you’re training for hypertrophy because you want to keep that load going, you want to keep the volume up, you want to keep the intensity up. Okay. So only about a minute, you know, rest between sets when you’re doing training for hypertrophy. Okay.
So why would you want to train for hypertrophy? If you want to get bigger muscles, you know, if you’re somebody that is like, you know, I want to I want to get stronger. But I don’t want to get all big and bulky, then focus on lifting heavier weights, and don’t do as many reps and sets.
If you’re somebody that it’s like me and where I was like, I want to get bigger, I want bigger arms, I want a bigger chest, I want you know, bigger legs, then I’m going to focus on doing more volume.
Okay, now, I like to do this in cycles. So I go through six-week cycles where I do each one of these I go from strength to hypertrophy to power to strength hypertrophy to power every six weeks. And this is great, even through training cycles.
I feel like I’m always improving from a muscle standpoint, like getting bigger or getting stronger muscles. Okay, one more thing I want to tell you. And this goes for all the different methodologies that I’ve been talking about here.
Strength, power, and hypertrophy is the power of intention. So it doesn’t matter how you’re doing your training. One of the keys is intention. So you want to put your mind and your intention into each muscle that you’re working, right? So you want to think about the muscle.
So if you’re doing bicep curls, you want to be looking at that bicep muscle and thinking about that bicep muscle, this is something that Arnold talks about. He talks about looking at it and focusing on getting stronger, I’m not going to do my Arnold impression here, because that would be terrible.
But focus on that muscle getting stronger, getting bigger, getting more powerful, or whatever, contract that muscle tightly each time you do each single rep you want to contract your muscles as hard as possible during each exercise to get the maximum results from each rep that you do.
Like if you’re just sitting there going to do that you’re not really if you’re doing it super fast. I saw somebody at the gym doing this the other day, they were talking on the phone and doing leg extensions, and they were just there was almost no weight on there.
And it looked like there was no effort being used whatsoever. They’re not getting any results. Whatever they’re doing is not they’re not getting stronger muscles or bigger muscles. They’re just like goofing around is what they’re doing. Okay, they’re wasting time. They can say I went to the gym and I did all these leg lifts. But it’s not working. I’m not getting stronger. I wonder why?
Well, you’re not putting any intention into it. Okay. So think about this. If you’re doing a plank, and you’re holding that plank position, but you’re intentionally thinking about your core and you’re contracting your core, the entire time you’re doing that plank, that plank number one is going to be a lot harder, but it’s also going to be way more effective.
If you’re doing bicep curls you don’t need as much weight on the bar to get the same result. If you contract hard during those lifts, you don’t need to do as many reps. Let’s say you’re training for strength and you’re not doing as many reps. You can get massive results by going slow and controlled and then really contracting that muscle especially in that top, you know that top contracted position holding it.
Okay, so you want to get the most out of each rep that you do you want to be very intentional about this stuff. I know I rattled off a bunch of numbers, but it doesn’t mean anything. If you’re doing these things really passively like that. We have to put intention into how we’re doing our strength training because it is that important, okay?
If you want to live a long, healthy life and be strong all the way up until old age and live to be 100 years old or whatever, then you know strength training is going to be the way you get there. Okay? You want to lose weight, you want to improve your body composition, you want to be a better fat burner, you want to improve your endurance as a runner: strength training, hypertrophy training, power training, that’s how you’re gonna get there. Okay?
And as always, if you’re looking for help with any of this stuff, we can talk about coaching. That’s what I do. Just head over to my website runningleancoaching.com and click on Work With Me and we can set up a time to have a little conversation about coaching, and see if there’s a good fit for you. Cool. All right, that’s all I got for you today. Love to you all, keep on Running Lean, and I will talk to you soon.