Running with body weights is an effective method to add fitness benefits to your normal workout routine. The increased workload forces your muscles to work harder. It takes more effort to complete the same exercises, which increases the amount of calories burned in the same time period. Running with weights also increases "anaerobic recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers in the legs," according to a study conducted by the "European Journal of Applied Physiology." It is important to follow certain guidelines to prevent injuries when running with weights.
Hand or Wrist Weights
According to Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise, running with 1 to 3 lb. hand or wrist weights can increase heart rate by five to 10 beats per minute in comparison to unweighted running. The amount of calories burned also increases by 5 to 15 percent. Weights above 3 lbs. are not recommended because it puts added stress on shoulder muscles, elbow and wrist joints. The added benefits of using hand and wrist weights are derived mostly from increased arm muscle activity. Swinging the arms more while running may increase running speed and provide a safer alternative to hand weights with the same benefits.
Ankle weights may cause running mechanics to be altered in some individuals, leading to a greater risk of injury because of the strain placed on lower-leg tendons, muscles and joints.They also provide minimal fitness benefits in comparison to unweighted running, increasing heart rate by three to five beats per minute and calories burned by 5 to 10 percent. According to a study conducted by the University of Alberta, participants using ankle weights ran slower than their normal unweighted running speed, which accounts for the lesser fitness benefits.
Weight vests evenly distribute the added load across your torso, minimally interfering with running mechanics. Use a weight vest that accounts for 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. According to a study conducted by the "European Journal of Applied Physiology," weighted vest running has the greatest impact when done in inclined activities such as hill sprints or stair running. When not wearing the vest, vertical running speed and the length of time it takes for leg muscles to fatigue improves.
Supplementing your normal running routine with any form of body weights provides added fitness benefits. The added workload improves muscular strength, increases heart rate and burns more calories in the same amount of time as unweighted running. The leg muscles are encouraged to work more efficiently, increasing the amount of time it takes them to fatigue and enabling you to run longer at a faster speed. Weighted running should be approached with careful adherence to specific guidelines to prevent injury.