Although runners don’t generally use a lot of equipment when training, it’s not uncommon to see someone jogging with a backpack on. This is one of the favorite techniques for runners who are trying to switch up their training programs and make things more challenging for themselves.
Running with weights in bag has a lot of benefits: it makes your running practice more demanding for your muscles and heart, burns more calories, and can even improve your performance, posture, and safety.
So how does running with weights in bag work, what does it do to your body, and how can you use that technique as part of your training program? Let’s find out!
Switch Things Up
The first and most simple reason for people to start running with weights in bag is that it switches things up. Running can get repetitive: every day you go out, run at about the same pace, and probably following roughly the same route.
That’s why runners like to challenge themselves with different training variations: doing sprints, running intervals, running up-hill, or running with weights. If you find that you get tired or bored with your running training program, you might benefit from running with a weighted backpack.
It will make your run more exciting, give you something new to try out, and even improve your performance.
Burn More Calories
Running is a great cardio exercise, but people are usually surprised to find that running at a mild pace doesn’t actually burn that many calories. Compared to weightlifting, for example, it would take a much longer running session to burn the same amount of calories, unless you are running sprints or laps.
As a whole, running doesn’t have the most beneficial record for burning calories compared to other sports. But running with a weighted backpack can really change the deal. When you have weights on your back, your body expands a lot more energy moving than it would without the weights.
As a result, you’ll be burning a lot more calories if you manage to cover the same distance at the same speed as you usually do, only with weights. One clear benefit of that is that even if you don’t have time to run for longer, you can still burn more calories over a shorter amount of time by adding weights into your training.
And you don’t have to be carrying dozens of pounds on your back either. Studies showed that adding just one to three pounds of weight in your training could raise the amount of calories burnt by as much as 15 percent. Not bad!
By far the main reason for training with weights is that it can improve your performance. The general idea behind the concept is that by training with weights, you are making your muscles a lot stronger and improving your reflexes. Once the weights come off, you’ll be able to run faster than before, and for longer.
Studies have shown that wearing weights while running could improve speed, agility, isokinetic strength and muscle mass. Using weights might be the only way to engage certain muscles which are important when running. These muscles aren’t really challenged when running without weights, so running with a backpack full of weights can help to develop them.
When the weights come off, you might find that you have more power and endurance and can run better for longer. Running with weights is not easy, and will definitely challenge you in ways that you are probably not used to, but if you can stand it, expect to see your running performance improve.
Improve Cardiovascular Strength
Another reason to train with a weighted backpack is that it can increase your heart rate. The more vigorous exercise you practice, the more your heart rate increases. With a faster heart rate, your heart gets stronger and becomes able to transport more oxygen into the muscle.
So regularly doing exercise that really stimulates your heart can be key to improving your performance. According to recent studies, adding weights to your running training can increase heart rate by up to 10 beats per minute.
So if you’re trying to switch things up so that running helps boost your cardiovascular strength, putting a weighted backpack on when running may be the next step for you.
Be More Stable
Sure, running with a weighted backpack can help you train harder and improve your performance. But did you know that it could actually be beneficial for your posture as well?
In fact, some runners will choose to run with backpacks on because they find that it keeps their backs straighter and encourages them to run with a long, straight spine. In turn, more stability also increases performance and reduces the risk of injury—win-win!
Have Stronger Bones
Not only can running with weights in bag help your muscles grow stronger, but it may also strengthen your bones. A 2007 study found that training running with added weights led to greater ankle strength in a group of surveyed women.
After following a running program that involved wearing a weighted belt, the women had stronger bones, and more flexible joints compared to the control group. Activities like weightlifting are generally considered very helpful to prime your body and avoid injury in other sports.
So it is no surprise that training with weights, even in a more cardio setting, can strengthen the body to make it more resistant. And as injuries remain a constant fear and issue among runners, training with weights to prevent injury is a great way to boost your program and make it unlikely that you’ll have to take breaks into it following a sprained ankle or a shin splint.
How To Run With Weights In Bag?
Now that we’ve covered the many benefits of running with a weighted backpack, let us pay closer attention to the technique, you need to adopt to get the full range of benefits from the practice. It’s not enough to just throw a couple of weights into an everyday backpack or, as some people do, to load it up with stones.
First of all, you’ll want to start by choosing a backpack that’s appropriate for the activity. In the case of running, it’ll be something that hangs close to your back, embracing the natural curve of your spine. Bags with belts are ideal because they’ll let you bring it closer to your body, and prevent it from bouncing around when you’re running faster.
Some people also find that fastening the backpack’s belt is a good way to encourage good posture, and to activate the core and abdominal muscles.
The next step is to pack the bag so that it doesn’t impede your movements. It doesn’t really matter what you use as weights; it could be stones, it could be weight plates, bricks, whatever you want! What matters is the cushioning you’ll put around them. Use socks, old t-shirts anything you have on hand, but make sure that the bag is packed tightly and that none of the weighted objects can hurt you by digging into your skin.
Finally, don’t push yourself to go too hard, too fast. Even though it may not feel like it at first, running with weights in bag is actually quite a lot more difficult than running without them. So go slow at first, and don’t feel like you have to keep up the same rhythm that you usually have.
Start slow and work on your posture first. Stand up straight, elongate the spine, and activate the core muscles. You’ll improve your speed with time, but at the beginning, it is crucial to start with good form, especially when heavier weights are added in.
How much weight should I carry on my back?
A: It really depends on your size! It is recommended that you start slowly, and use only a couple of pounds’ worth of weight. As you get used to the sensation, increase the weight progressively. Trained, experienced athletes can go up to 20 or 40 pounds.
More casual runners are advised to stay below 10 percent of body weight rule. As always, it’s better to start slow and build up the weights. And remember, you can get a lot of benefits from the practice even without using dozens of pounds loaded up in your backpack!
Will running with a weighted backpack make you faster?
A: It might, and it definitely can’t make you slower! Studies disagree on just how effective running with weights is in terms of speed. In short, it can make your muscles stronger, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with speeds because a lot more mechanisms are involved. So do try out running with a backpack—but don’t necessarily expect it to work wonders on your running speed.
Running with weights in bag can be a great way to make your workout more exciting and more challenging—and, of course, more beneficial to your overall fitness. As well as making you stronger and burning more calories, running with weights also develops your muscles, your bones, and makes you less prone to injury.
It’s something that anyone can try to incorporate into their running program, but do be cautious not to use too much weight in the backpack at first. When done right, it’s an activity that can change the way that you run for the better, and add a challenge that you can keep on working on for years!
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