Does Running Hurt Your Strength Gains?

by Caleb Lee on June 30, 2009


Does Running Make You Weaker?

Got a comment from Al on another post asking if running will affect his strength gains, here’s the full comment:

“There are three specific things that i want to improve on: the dip, the pullup, and long distance running. Here are my reasons:

Dips: it is hard, and is the best chest/tricep exercise i have ever done. Plus i am more impressed with people who dominate on the dip bar than the bench press.

Pullups: same reasons as dips, but the best back/bicep exercise of course.

Running: because i enjoy doing it. I personally believe that interval training is better, but i enjoy running more.

my question is this: Will my running effect my strength gains in both dips and pullups and vice versa? Can i do all three equally as hard and still see improvements in all three? Thanks!”

Will Running Affect Your Strength Gains?

As it often is with fitness and exercise questions: the answer is yes and no.

Yes, because if you “over-run” yourself, do tons of marathons and whatnot, to the point where your body is forced to use muscle mass for fuel … then you’ll most certainly diminish your strength gains.

Less muscle = less strength (all other things being equal).

On the other hand, once you get past 15-20 reps in either the dips or the pullups, you’ll find you’re building primarily strength endurance in those exercises (although one could argue this, since there’s so few people who can do that many pullups) … so it’s kind of like you’re doing the same thing training long-distance running and high rep calisthenics.

But, because I think you’re just a recreational runner and not an ultra-hardcore marathoner type o’ guy, the answer I’d have to give you is …

You’ll Be Fine!

Just keep at it. Work your pullups, work your dips. Run as much as you like … because for some reason … you like it :) (Running definitely isn’t on my top 100 list of things to do).


Work Your Pullups and Pushups Into Your Running - That's What I Used To Do, Before My Hate Of Running Took Over My Body :)

There’s one other thing though, if you’re looking to get better at even long distance running, interval training will help you there too.

I’d Still Recommend Interval Training

If you want to get better at your long distance running, faster times, etc  … then you should probably think about putting in a few 8 week periods of interval training throughout the year (it’ll also probably be easier on your joints to switch up intensities for a bit).

Tabata Training Increase VO2 Max

I first heard about this from THE MAN C Bass, so I’ll link to his full article here and because I’m lazy and would rather not rewrite any of it here, only copy and paste the following:

“In some respects the results were no surprise, but in others they may be ground breaking. The moderate-intensity endurance training program produced a significant increase in V02max (about 10%), but had no effect on anaerobic capacity. The high-intensity intermittent protocol improved V02max by about 14%; anaerobic capacity increased by a whopping 28%.”

So you see, even with the Tabata training (4 minutes VS 2 hours of training by the way) you get a 4% better increase in VO2 max, the type of endurance primarily built by long distance running.

There’s more too …

Interval Training Increase Endurance Capacity

I’ll just paste the conclusion from the study abstract here for you (click here for a pdf of the full abstract):

“In conclusion, the results from the present study demonstrate
that six bouts of sprint interval training performed over 2 wk
(15 min total of very intense exercise) increased citrate
synthase maximal activity and doubled endurance capacity
during cycling exercise at 80% V? O2 peak in recreationally
active subjects.
The validity of this latter observation is bolstered
by the fact that all subjects performed extensive familiarization
trials before testing and that a control group showed
no change in cycle endurance capacity when tested 2 wk apart
without any sprint training intervention. To our knowledge,
this is the first study to show that sprint training dramatically
improves endurance capacity during a fixed-workload test in
which the majority of cellular energy is derived from aerobic
metabolism. These data demonstrate that brief repeated bouts
of very intense exercise can rapidly stimulate improvements in
muscle oxidative potential that are comparable to or higher
than previously reported aerobic-based training studies of similar

So Keep Running, Keep Doing Pushups/Pullups — But Throw In Some Intervals …

Because interval training will give you a change of pace — giving you a mental break … and maybe it’ll be a little easier on your joints to switch up the intensity of your running … and it’ll help preserve some of your hard-earned muscle mass, it’s good for your heart, etc .

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Al S June 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm



Al S June 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Yuo are really convincing me that interval training is the true way to go and i am starting to believe you. I also believe the reason i like “aerobic running” is because it is easy. To me “like” means that running is not hard. Interval training is HARD.

I was watching the National Outdoor Track and Field Championships the other day and i first saw the long distane runners and i was impressed with their endurance. BUT then i watched the sprinters and my jaw dropped. I was speechless. Their physiques were amazing! Watching them makes you want do sprints and lift massive weight! If they can’t get you motivated to train, I don’t know what can. Anyway, thanks for the article!


Brucie July 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Al, glad to see that you’re learning something. I myself had to learn this about a year ago. I distance ran for a lil while and even got my 225lb (at the time) body to run 3 miles in under 20 mins. But I was still fattish and soggy. Then I got into powerlifting and put on 30lbs in like 3 months. And then I was fat and soggy but stronger! I wanted to lose some fat weight but hated running at that point so I gave interval training a try. I was able to drop 15lbs (with the help of a certain diet, thanx Caleb =]) pretty easily. Now im only slightly soggy, stronger than I’ve ever been, and still making gains in my lifts. So I say to you Al, dip and pull-up until you outperfrom all those around you. And throw away that bs distance running. Interval training is where its at. Caleb has yet to lie to ya. Listen to him.

Oh, as for thinking heavy dips are more impressive than a heavy bench, you and I are now enemies!


Caleb Lee July 2, 2009 at 1:33 am

@ Brucie: Aww shucks — you’re makin me blush again :) Seriously though–killing yourself running (I can only imagine how much more it sucks to have your joints pounding the hard pavement over 200 pounds!) is like having sex with a broken glass condom compared to the effectiveness and relative ease of intervals (ease=more effective=less time doing it!)

And I’ll keep my mouth shut about dipping VS Benching :)


Brucie July 2, 2009 at 2:24 am

Yeah, you know what happens to those that talk back…


Darrin August 4, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I’m like Al – I love long runs, usually 5 to 10 miles a few times a week. But like Caleb, I’m aware of what the science says about long steady state cardio vs. intervals. Intervals a better use of time, better for fat loss, and better for anabolism. Although I’m lean and muscular, I probably would be a bit bigger if I just did intervals. But I don’t care – I’m going for full body health, including mental health! And HIIT is extremely hard to do regularly (plus, I actually find HIIT to be far more boring than steady state cardio because with steady state cardio I can listen to my ipod; not so easy to do that when running full-out in HIIT).


Brucie August 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm

So Darrin, you’re completely aware that you’d not look like a 14 year old boy if you switched to HIIT and got away from steady state, yet to still wont??!?? How is being leaner and more muscular not better for “full body health”?!!! You make no damn sense and sound like a queen who doesnt like hard work. And as for your ipod, strap it to your fucking arm, problem solved.


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