Last fall I started upper body weight training with free weights. I didn't
want to get old with strong leg muscles and atrophied upper body muscles.
I was surprised that this seemed to also benefit my running efficiency. I
felt stronger, and with more endurance, not sure about speed. I didn't
really expect anything you did with the upper body would have much of an
effect on running, but anecdotally, at least in my case, it seems to be
I did some half-hearted Googling around on this topic, and found all sorts
of "studies have shown" articles claiming weight training does indeed
help runners, but couldn't find the studies, nor could I find anything
directly relating to upper body only training, tho all the programs I found
had the full complement of leg and upper body work. I did notice marathoners
claiming upper body work led to improved ability to finish the race strong.
These claims, anyway, caught my eye --
Scientists in Finland found that strength training could boost maximal
running speed by 10%. Strong and evenly balanced muscles help posture,
which contribute to good running form. Research has linked strength training
to a lower risk of injury and a 4% improvement in 5k race times.
In addition to injury prevention, weight training improves performance. Studies
show that with as little as ten weeks of weight training, 10K times decrease by
an average of a little over one minute. The research has also shown that
running economy defined as the steady-state oxygen consumption for a
standardized running speed (milliliters per kilogram body weight per minute),
will be improved due to weight training. By improving running economy, a runner
should be able to run faster over the same distance due to a decrease in oxygen
consumption. Improved running economy would also increase a runnerís time to
I imaging elite runners know about this and have coaches suggesting what they
should do (tho I did not get a sense from my brief search as to what percentage
of elite runners seem to think weight training is a good idea or bad idea), but
I'm pretty clueless about running physiology and training, etc. I do know
that it seems to help me, anyway. It is one of those things I sort of stumbled
into for the wrong reason that seems to help. This is an obvious glaring
in the US O program -- the lack of an army of coaches just telling us these
things; what works, what doesn't.
There are probably all sorts of things out there that can help one improve,
waiting to be discovered. Ironically, I got into O because I'm a recreational
treasure hunter, and it was described (incorrectly) as such, then I ended up
into the more serious side of it, but it seems the treasure hunting turns out
to be digging up different ideas for improvement.