Recently I’ve been receiving more and more questions from people asking how to better incorporate squats into their running training programs. And even more specific, is it possible to balance heavy squats and running? And while there are a lot of people online and in forums claiming to have the answer in one way or another. I’m here to set the record straight, and give you more info then you probably want. But if you’re looking to squat heavy and run far, this is the info you need to know.
- Balancing heavy squats and running is possible and can lead to improved performance and injury resistance, with some caveats.
- Strength for runners should be measured in the strength-to-weight ratio, not just total pounds lifted.
- Setting squat strength goals for runners should consider body weight and mileage.
- Genetic factors, including body type (ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph), play a role in an athlete’s potential for strength and endurance.
- Adding heavy squats to a running program requires careful planning, typically with a strength cycle before a running volume cycle.
- Improperly incorporating heavy squats can negatively affect running performance, leading to overuse, injury, or setbacks.
Heavy Squats and Running – Benefits, Programing Tips and Disadvantages
The question is simple, is it possible to balance heavy squats and running? Unfortunately the answer is not as easy to explain because there are a few major factors to take into account. Below I’ll go over all of that. But for those looking for a quick answer. Here it is:
Yes, squatting heavy and running is possible, and can lead to major improvements in performance and injury resistance. With a couple caveats. First, understanding that strength should be measured in strength to weight ratio rather than total pounds. And second, that there are genetic limitations. The people that squat 3x their body weight and run a sub 3 hour marathon are outliers. They are the exception rather than the rule.
What is a Heavy Squat for a Runner?
This is where a lot of people get in trouble by starting to chase goals in total weight. People tend to look at the total, and set a weight like a 400lb back squat as their definition of “heavy”. But for runners, I highly recommended reframing their definition of “heavy”, and focusing on strength to weight ratio. This is even how many powerlifters and olympic lifters, who are classified by body weight, set major milestones. Hitting 2.5x or 3x their body weight, can mean just as much as the total.
I’m going to break this down a little further. If a 200 lb man lifts 400 lbs, that’s 2x their body weight and would be considered strong in most gyms. If a 275 lb man lifts 400 lbs, that’s 1.45x their body weight and would not be considered a strong lift in most strength competitions. Now if a 150lb person hit a 400lb squat, that would be 2.6x body weight. And would be considered very strong and probably place at most local powerlifting competitions.
Why am I breaking this down? I just want you to understand how to properly measure your strength and set goals. As a runner, anytime you get to 1.75x to 2x in the squat while maintaining 25+ miles a week, you are starting to get heavy. And working up to a 1.5x bodyweight squat while doing 25+ miles a week is a great squat strength goal for most people.
Genetics – Knowing Our Limitations
One of the hardest parts of being an athlete is understanding our genetic limitations. Just as some people are taller, some people are born with more muscle fibers in the body. And while there are a ton of different body types, science breaks most people into three different genetic categories; endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. With our classification playing a large part in our genetic potential, specifically in areas like strength or endurance. And typically the people that squat “heavy” while maintaining a larger running volume will be classified as a Mesomorph. Allowing the gain and maintain muscle very easily, Which type are you? Find out below.
Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph – Which Are You
Ectomorph is generally described as someone with a:
- Slender, lean build
- Small bone structure
- Fast metabolism
- Difficult to gain weight and muscle mass
- Long limbs
- Narrow frame
Mesomorph is generally described as someone with a:
- Muscular, athletic build
- Broad shoulders
- Narrow waist
- Low body fat
- Natural ability to gain muscle and lose fat
- Easier to build a lean, toned physique
Endomorph is generally described as someone with a:
- Rounder, softer build
- Higher body fat percentage
- Wider bone structure
- Slower metabolism
- Easier to gain weight and body fat
- More rounded body shape
- Wider hips
- Thicker waist
Fitting Heavy Squats Into Your Running Program
Not knowing your training plan, weekly miles, and goals it would be irresponsible of me to suggest just throwing heavy squats into your current training cycle. But I can make some recommendations on when and how to properly fit them in with the right planning.
The most common way to add heavy lifting into a program is by adding in a strength cycle before you go into a running volume cycle. For example, if you have a race 6 months out, many athletes will do a 16 week strength at the beginning while keeping their weekly miles pretty consistent. Then switching to a maintenance mode in strength training while building up their miles to their goal race. Stacking this year over year for incredible gains in both modalities.
Disadvantages – Can Heavy Squats Have a Negative Effective on Your Running?
Yes, adding heavy squats to your program without proper preparation or planning can have negative effects on your running performance. This can cause overuse, injury, or simply set you back by not allowing for proper recovery. Limiting your ability to achieve optimal performance in either. Because of this it’s important to incorporate heavy squats using a proper program. Rather than just throwing them in to do them.
In conclusion, mixing heavy squats and running can be an effective way to improve your overall fitness and athletic performance. While these two exercises may seem contradictory at first glance, they actually complement each other well. With heavy squats building strength, power, and durability in the lower body, and running improves cardiovascular endurance, muscle endurance, and overall conditioning. To get the most out of this combination, it’s important to approach the combination gradually and strategically. Incorporating both types of exercise into your routine in a way that allows for adequate rest and recovery. With the right planning, you can achieve a well-rounded, balanced fitness program that includes both heavy squats and running, and helps you reach your health and fitness goals.
As always, please let me know if you have any question in the comments below!